Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday the attack that killed Iranian military leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani was in response to an “imminent attack.”
“This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove this,” Pompeo told CNN. He declined to disclose specific details of the intelligence but said the threats were not aimed at the U.S.
“These were threats located in the region,” Pompeo said.
The State Department urged all American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as Washington braced for what happens next after the airstrike, which drew strong condemnation from Iran and threatens to escalate tensions with the U.S.
The agency warned Americans to stay away from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and suspended all public consular activities “until further notice.”
The Pentagon said in a statement released Thursday evening that the airstrike had been carried out at President Donald Trump’s direction as a “defensive action” against Soleimani. The Defense Department said Thursday that Soleimani had “orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months.”
Democrats urged caution and called on the Trump administration to brief members of Congress on further developments.
In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the airstrike “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence,” and were carried out without proper congressional authorization. Pelosi called on the Trump administration to brief Congress on the situation.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, also a Democratic presidential candidate, said Trump had “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”
Acknowledging that Soleimani had “deserved to be brought to justice,” Biden slammed the airstrike as a “hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region” and questioned the Trump administration’s “discipline or “long-term vision.”
House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said he was “deeply concerned about the repercussions” of the airstrike and called it a “massive escalation in our conflict with Iran.”
“This strike went forward with no notification or consultation with Congress,” he said, noting how the lack of notification “raises serious legal problems.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “All steps must now be taken to protect our forces against the almost inevitable escalation and increased risk.