US Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Sunday implied that US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani as a distraction from Washington impeachment proceedings.
Warren said that the timing of the strike, and the White House explanations for it, were suspicious in light of Trump’s legal woes. She suggested that Trump had created similar distractions over the summer when his controversial phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky first made headlines.
In an interview with NBC Warren was asked about US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that not acting against Soleimani was dangerous.
“We are not safer because Donald Trump had Soleimani killed. We are much closer to the edge of war. The question is why now? Why not a month ago, why not a month from now? And the administration simply can’t keep its story straight. It points in all different directions,” Warren said, speaking during a break from campaigning in Iowa, several weeks ahead of the state’s Democratic caucus, the nation’s first.
Warren was seen as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination but has lost ground to other candidates in recent weeks.
After the Ukraine call was made public, “the administration did the same thing. They point in all different directions and give a whole lot of different answers. And of course what it turned out to be is that Donald Trump is doing what Donald Trump does, that is, he was advancing his own personal political interests,” she said.
“I think people are starting to ask ‘why now did he do this? why not delay?’ and why this one is so dangerous is that he is truly taking us right to the edge of war and that is something that puts us at risk, it puts the Middle East at risk, it puts the entire world at risk,” Warren said. “It is the job of the president to keep us safe and that is not what Donald Trump is doing.”
In a separate interview with CNN, Warren said that Trump was “deeply upset” about the impeachment proceedings against him.
“I think people are reasonably asking why this moment? Why does he pick now to take this highly inflammatory highly dangerous action that moves us closer to war? We’ve been at war for 20 years in the Middle East, we need to stop that war in the Middle East, not expand it,” she said.
Elizabeth Warren on the Qasem Soleimani strike: "I think that the question that we ought to focus on is why now? Why not a month ago and why not a month from now? And the answer from the administration seems to be that they can't keep their story straight on this." #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/bEcDAEf5Bi
— CNN (@CNN) January 5, 2020
“I think people are reasonably asking about the timing and why it is that the administration seems to have all kinds of different answers.”
She said that the White House had first said killing Soleimani prevented an imminent attack, then claimed it prevented a future attack, then Vice President Mike Pence linked the strike to 9/11, then press reports said the threat was likely overblown.
Warren said that the Obama administration had sought to de-escalate tensions with Iran, despite its ongoing belligerence, but that Trump had rapidly escalated tensions. In the wake of Soleimani’s killing, Tehran said Sunday that it was completely withdrawing from the nuclear deal negotiated with world powers led by the Obama administration, and would no longer observe curbs on its uranium enrichment, stockpiles, or research and development.
Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad’s international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran. Just a few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning.”
Iranian leaders and the country’s Shiite proxies, including Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, have vowed revenge against the US and Israel for the killing.
Rockets have been repeatedly fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses the US embassy, in recent weeks, including on Sunday. The vehemently anti-American group Kataeb Hezbollah had warned Iraqi security forces to “get away” from US troops at joint bases across Iraq by 5 p.m. Sunday, hinting at further attacks.
Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops from the country on Sunday as a response to Soleimani’s killing, which will likely hamper ongoing efforts to combat the Islamic State terror group.
The US said it was sending some 3,500 troops to the Middle East to serve as reinforcements in light of skyrocketing tensions.