Pompeo Says Trump's Call To Take Out Soleimani Fit 'Perfectly' Within State Department Strategy: 'We Got It Right'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump's decision to take out top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani was "entirely legal" and "fit perfectly within our strategy" during a press conference Tuesday.

The statement comes amid concerns that the president is out of touch with senior-ranking members of his administration, who in recent days have walked back Trump's threats to attack Iran's cultural sites in tweets from his Florida resort.

Pompeo also seemed to soften the justification for the attack. Last Friday, Trump called Soleimani "the number one terrorist anywhere in the world" in his announcement of the strike. "Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him," he said.

But the threat posed by Soleimani's alleged plans may have been more abstract than Trump let on, according to Pompeo's statements.

In addition to Soleimani's recent "handiwork," which included an attack that led to the death of an American civilian contractor in Iraq last month, there were "continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans, Pompeo said. "It was the right decision. We got it right."

The president's decision "fit perfectly within our strategy and how to counter the threat of malign activity from Iran more broadly," he continued.

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The U.S. has deployed thousands of troops to the region in recent weeks, following the contractor's killing in a rocket attack by an Iranian-backed militia, a series of subsequent American airstrikes that caused protests in Baghdad, and finally last week's drone strike that killed Soleimani, according The New York Times.

In response, Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday passed a resolution asking its government to eject American troops from the country. The U.S. appeared to respond in kind with a leaked letter telling Iraq the troops would be "repositioned." But the Defense Department quickly clarified that the email was a mistake and said the troops are not going anywhere.

Meanwhile, the president continues to make threats on Twitter and in the media, including sanctions on Iraq if it moves to eject U.S. troops and targeting Iranian cultural sites if that country retaliates for Soleimani's killing.

Pompeo has maintained that the strike has made the world much safer, given what the secretary of state said were Soleimani's ties to terrorism. But the general was regarded by some Iranians as a national hero, with thousands attending his funeral in Tehran, according to NPR. Iran has threatened to revenge his death in the form of direct and indirect retaliation, including no longer abiding by limits in the 2015 nuclear deal.

Pompeo Defends Trump's Strike Before Reporters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on January 7, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images