Officials tell WaPo: We don’t know what Trump means when he says Soleimani was plotting against four of our embassies


The president, yesterday:

Hard to believe, and not just because he’s prone to exaggerating numbers. (Case in point, he repeated his standard claim on Twitter this morning that he’s at 53 percent job approval even though no poll, including Trump-friendly Rasmussen, has him north of 50.) Hitting four U.S. embassies would have been an unambiguous act of war by Iran inviting major U.S. retaliation. Even if they had farmed out the dirty work to proxies like Hezbollah, the number of attacks would have made it obvious that Iran had coordinated the operation.

Is there any evidence that Iran wants all-out engagement with the U.S. military? If they do, why didn’t they seize on Soleimani’s killing to do something meaningful last week to kill Americans instead of those dry-bite missile strikes on Iraqi air bases?

WaPo wondered too and started working the phones to try to find evidence that four embassies were in the crosshairs. No dice.

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But a senior administration official and a senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, said they were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies.

The senior defense official did not directly contradict Trump but said there was concern that there might be an attempt to place a bomb at the Baghdad embassy, a heavily fortified structure in a secure area of the Iraqi capital…

The embassy in Baghdad did not receive an alert commensurate to the threat Trump described, said a person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to comment publicly. When the U.S. government has specific information about threats to embassies, warnings or alerts are often sent to embassy personnel to be vigilant.

That’s not all. U.S. diplomats weren’t warned to avoid travel to Iraq before the Soleimani strike, at a time when the supposed plot against the embassies presumably would have been known to U.S. intelligence:

WaPo asked senators who attended this week’s briefing with Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel whether they heard anything there about four embassies. Nope, said several Democrats. “Had they presented threats about four embassies, there would have been a very different disposition from senators coming out of that briefing,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told the paper. Mike Lee and Rand Paul also walked out of the briefing on Thursday claiming that they’d heard nothing impressive intelligence-wise to support the administration’s claims of a major threat. As I write this at 2 p.m. ET, I’m unaware of any Republicans in Congress corroborating the claim that multiple embassies were at risk.

On the other hand, Pompeo was asked yesterday at a press conference if he had any specific information he could share to substantiate the claim that Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack. We knew it would happen imminently, he insisted, but we didn’t know precisely when or where — although he did include “U.S. embassies” as part of the potential targets:

That gets us back to the original question. If Iran is so hot for war with America that they were on the brink of attacking multiple U.S. facilities across the region, why’d they pull their punches in retaliating for Soleimani? Either Pompeo’s exaggerating about the threat or the regime has hit pause for the moment while the IRGC regroups. War will come in that case. It’s just on a new timetable.

The irony of Trump chattering about a vague threat is that this would otherwise seem like a perfect “Colonel Jessup” moment for him. Did you order the code red on Soleimani because he was an evil bastard and you wanted to show that the U.S. won’t be pushed around after that assault on the embassy in Baghdad? You’re g-ddamned right I did.

That explanation would have been “problematic” inasmuch as he needs some shred of an “imminent” threat to justify acting without approval from Congress. But c’mon. What’s Congress going to do at this late stage of decline in its authority if Trump had said, “I did it because Soleimani had it coming”?

In lieu of an exit question, here’s a bit of hair-raising propaganda being circulated by the IRGC. If Iran can’t wound the Great Satan, it can at least fantasize.

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