Trump Argued Soleimani Strike Would Be Popular Politically, Said Iran Wouldn't 'Do Anything Too Stupid'—Report

President Donald Trump reportedly made the case to his aides that the operation to kill top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani would be popular politically and that Iran would not "do anything too stupid" in retaliation.

Some Democrats have accused Trump of taking the opportunity to kill Soleimani—a high-stakes decision that risked sparking an all-out war with Iran—to distract from his impeachment by the House for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Washington Post reported an account of the discussion about striking Soleimani from a senior administration official who had spoken to Trump. The Trump administration has said it took action against Soleimani to protect Americans and to prevent, not start, a war.

Newsweek asked the White House for comment by email and will update this article if one is provided.

Iran's first direct response—missile attacks from its territory on two bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel in neighboring Iraq—was limited, and early reports suggest no American casualties.

"Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched," Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted after the attack. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

Trump tweeted about the Iranian attack: "All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning."

Soleimani was a major general who led Iran's Quds Force, the foreign branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is a designated terrorist organization by Washington. He led Iran's military efforts in Iraq and Syria and is blamed for a number of atrocities.

At the direction of Trump, the U.S. killed Soleimani by drone strike last Friday as he left Baghdad airport. Washington has accused Soleimani of plotting new attacks on Americans and said its strike was to deter any future military action by Iran.

The killing of Soleimani was the culmination of months of escalation in U.S.-Iran tensions. Iranian-backed militias have repeatedly attacked bases housing Americans in Iraq, including an incident on December 27 that killed an American contractor.

Violent demonstrators mobilized by Iran had stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after the U.S. conducted airstrikes on Iranian militias. Trump then decided to strike Soleimani, a major moment in the chain of events that threatened to spark a full war.

Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus wrote on LinkedIn that it is "impossible to overstate the significance" of Soleimani's death. Petraeus said Soleimani's role was "a combination of CIA Director, JSOC Commander, and Special Presidential Envoy for the Mideast."

A HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 adult American citizens found that 46 percent approved of Soleimani's killing compared to 38 percent who did not, while 19 percent were not sure either way. The poll was conducted between January 3-5.

However, the poll also found that only 35 percent said Trump planned carefully enough before ordering the strike, with 43 percent saying he did not and 23 percent not sure.

And only 32 percent said Trump has a clear strategy for dealing with Iran against 47 percent who said he does not, with 21 percent unsure.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 candidate, has suggested that Trump may be using brinkmanship with Iran to take the public's focus away from the impeachment drama in which he is engulfed.

"There was a reason that he chose this moment. Not a month ago, not a month from now, not a less aggressive, less dangerous response," she told CNN's State of the Union.

Donald Trump Iran Soleimani general strike impeachment
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media in the Oval Office of the White House January 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump reportedly thought killing an Iranian general would be a politically-popular move. Alex Wong/Getty Images