The Trump Administration Can’t Get Its Story Straight On Iran
January 7, 2020
After escalating tensions with Iran with no clear strategy in place, Trump and his team still aren’t on the same page and can’t stop contradicting each other. It’s clear that Trump failed to undertake the necessary analysis before ordering the strike and has no plan to prevent further escalation.
The Trump administration accidentally sent a letter to the Iraqi government suggesting U.S. troops would be withdrawn, which top officials then had to clarify was inaccurate.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley: “That letter is a draft. It was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released … (it was) poorly worded, implies withdrawal, that is not what’s happening.”
Mark Esper: “I can’t tell you the veracity of that letter, I can tell you what I read, that letter is inconsistent with where we are right now.”
The Pentagon and State Department have given different explanations for why Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani and whether there was actually an imminent threat.
Mike Pompeo: “We know it was imminent.”
Defense Department: “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
New York Times: “Some Pentagon officials have said the intelligence did not show an imminent attack. The alerts on threat streams were not unusual, they said.”
USA Today: “During a news conference at the State Department, Pompeo seemed to downplay that earlier claim when pressed to specify how imminent the threat was from Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Pompeo focused instead on Soleimani’s past history of attacks on Americans.”
Trump ramped up threats against Iran while his administration preached a policy of de-escalation.
Washington Post: “In a separate interview on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ Pompeo said Trump’s reference to the 52 potential target sites in Iran was ‘entirely consistent’ with the administration’s message of de-escalation… A few hours later, however, Trump contradicted Pompeo by doubling down on his threat of striking cultural sites.”
Jake Tapper to Pompeo: “You said you hope that this strike de-escalates the situation. President Trump is obviously now threatening, in capital letters, to hit Iran very fast and very hard. That does not seem like de-escalation.”
Trump’s military advisers reportedly did not expect him to actually choose the option of killing Soleimani.
New York Times: “In the chaotic days leading to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, top American military officials put the option of killing him — which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq — on the menu they presented to President Trump. They didn’t think he would take it.”