- President Donald Trump and top administration members held up the Pentagon’s killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military official, as a massive victory amid heated tensions with the Middle Eastern country.
- Multiple reports detailing the days around the decision capture advisers’ surprise at Trump’s decision to target the general, which also later shocked lawmakers and international authorities.
- Despite the major development, Trump reportedly appeared calm and cool while hosting people at his Mar-a-Lago resort, even dropping hints about an imminent Iran-related news story.
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President Donald Trump surprised officials with an order last week for a strike to kill Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military official.
After days of increasingly violent incidents involving American entities in Iran, multiple reports detail Trump summoning his top national security advisers to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida before he spent the next few days dropping hints to friends and associates while publicly appearing hawkish.
Multiple reports captured officials’ surprise at Trump’s decision to kill the top military figure, a massive development during Trump’s otherwise relaxed New Year’s stay at his club.
See how the week played out.
Meetings began Sunday afternoon among Trump’s top national security and military advisers at Mar-a-Lago.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gathered with the president on Sunday afternoon shortly after arriving at the club for the upcoming holiday celebration,CNN reported.
Sources told CNN that Trump and his senior security advisers had been discussing a strike to remove Soleimani in recent months, which was finalised in a surprising decision by Trump while he was deliberating with the team after several bloody conflicts in the region had popped up in the days since Christmas.
That set off a call to action throughout the Pentagon, which located Suleimani as flying from Damascus to Baghdad’s international airport.
Trump then began to float the plans among other close allies, including Lindsey Graham, who later confirmed to “Fox and Friends” that he had been briefed on the strike.
A senior administration official told the Washington Post that Trump’s call “was tremendously bold and even surprised many of us.”
As he kept up appearances around the resort, Trump was hawkish on advancing the US response to tensions with Iran, even reportedly bragging to some resort guests.
On New Year’s Eve, Trump lauded a mission by Marines who rushed to the American Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday to protect diplomats during a violent protest that the administration said was ordered by Iran.
“We have some of our greatest warriors there,” Trump told reporters of the mission. “They got in very quickly.”
He added that he would caution Iran away from starting a war with the US, saying he didn’t think “would be a good idea for Iran,” as “it wouldn’t last very long.”
The violent siege at the embassy was the second incident in days that the administration had connected to Soleimani after a December 27 rocket attack that killed an America military contractor near Kirkuk, Iraq.
As news of the successful strike broke Thursday night, Trump appeared at ease.
CNN reported that Trump was seen exiting a secure briefing room at Mar-a-Lago around 6 p.m. with agents and aides. Throughout the evening, aides delivered updates on the strikes as Trump reportedly remained a calm and cool dinner guest.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even posted pictures of Trump eating his dinner while news of the strike broke and the Pentagon confirmed responsibility.
Howie Carr, a conservative author, wrote in a column for the Boston Herald that Trump seemed “cool, calm and collected,” chatting with McCarthy and Carr about Democratic contenders in the 2020 Election like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
One possible clue that a big announcement was coming came via the president’s Twitter account, which posted a photo of an American flag at 9:32 p.m.
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After the strike, Democratic lawmakers faced off with the triumphant administration
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among the top lawmakers to express concern over retaliation for the attack, saying in a statement released Friday morning that the strike could trigger a “further dangerous escalation of violence.”
Reports noted that Pelosi was one in the “Gang of Eight,” a group of congressional leaders who receive high-level intelligence and military briefings from the administration, who was not briefed on the mission.
The United Nations also criticised the attack and raised questions if the move was even legal.
Pelosi’s comments stood in sharp contrast to Trump’s assertion at a Friday press conference that the US “took action last night to stop a war.”
“We did not take action to start a war,” he said.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vice President were among the officials to echo Trump’s hopeful comments, with Pence even falsely connecting Iran to the September 11 terrorist attacks as a long-awaited justification for Soleimani’s death.
Despite the backlash and concern sparked by the killing, the administration’s next planned steps in the conflict remained unclear.
Lawmakers and officials bat down concerns over security threats to the US in the wake of the attack after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for Americans.
Some of the country’s biggest cities announced a ramped-up security presence at top tourist sites, though the Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement that “there are currently no specific, credible threats against our homeland.”
Protests were slated for cities across the US to push back on concerns of a brewing war, which would demand thousands more US troops deployed to the Middle East, despite the White House’s insistence that Trump had intended to de-escalate tensions.
“To talk about de-escalation now is absurd, in a way, because Iran will react,” Rob Malley, a senior Mideast official for former President Barack Obama, told the Daily Beast. “The de-escalation decision should have been taken before the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.”
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