US President Donald Trump and his top advisers are under pressure to disclose more details about the intelligence that led him to order the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, which has greatly heightened tension with Tehran.
Trump said Tuesday that his decision saved American lives and that members of Congress will be briefed on the reasons for the US attack.
“We saved a lot of lives,” Trump said. “They were planning something.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that Soleimani was planning attacks that would take place within just days when he was killed in Baghdad by a US drone strike.
“I think it’s more fair to say days, for sure,” he said at a Pentagon press briefing, when asked how imminent the threat was from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was clear that Soleimani was continuing his efforts to build a network of activities “that were going to lead potentially to the death of many more Americans.”
Democratic lawmakers are not yet convinced.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on Trump to declassify the written notification the president sent to Congress after the strike on Soleimani.
The notification was required under the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973, which requires the president to report to Congress when American forces are sent into hostile or imminently hostile situations.
“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the senators wrote. “An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.”
The US killed Soleimani in an airstrike early Friday in Baghdad, saying the powerful commander of the Quds Force was planning a significant campaign of violence against the United States.
Shortly after the strike, the Pentagon released a statement, saying, “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
The Iranian regime’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, named Soleimani’s deputy, Gen. Esmail Ghaani, as his successor just hours later.
In his first public comment after the appointment, Ghaani was quoted as vowing to kill Americans throughout the region.
“Be patient,” he said, “and you will see the bodies of Americans all over the Middle East.”