President Donald Trump and other White House officials have tried for several days now to justify a brazen assassination attack that took place last week that resulted in the killing of one of Iran’s top military leaders, Qasem Soleimani.
The administration has tried to say the assassination came about due to concerns about an imminent threat from Soleimani that required his immediate death in order to stop it. But when pressed for details on that threat, the White House has been quiet on the matter publicly. Behind closed doors with lawmakers, it appears they’re not willing to give much more information than what they’ve already said as well.
According to reporting from Business Insider, an image of an unclassified document handed out to senators this week gives rationale for the drone strike that killed Soleimani, but cites no imminent threat within it that the White House has been trying to sell for several days now. Instead, the memo suggests the threat came about due to past actions rather than any proof of future plans from the Iranian general.
“I directed these actions in response to an escalating series of attacks in recent months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East region,” part of the memo reads. “The purposes of these actions are to protect United States personnel, to deter Iran from conducting or supporting further attacks against United States forces and interests, to degrade Iran’s and Qods Force-backed militias’ ability to conduct attacks, and to end Iran’s strategic escalation of attacks on and threats to United States interests.”
Lawmakers have said even the unredacted version of the memo doesn’t indicate any sort of imminent threat. Sen. Chris VanHollen, a Democrat from Maryland, shared an image of the memo to his Twitter account. “From all we’ve seen, including the redacted parts here and the briefing, the facts do not show an imminent threat,” he said.
Here’s the unclassified version of what Trump sent Congress after the hit on Suleimani.
From all we’ve seen, including the redacted parts here and the briefing, the facts do not show an imminent threat.
We must pass a bill making clear Trump can’t start a war without a vote. pic.twitter.com/mUnkLwsph1
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 9, 2020
Because it lacked proof of a threat, Van Hollen said Congress should act immediately to prevent more questionable attacks on leaders from Iran in the near future, without first getting legislative authorization to do so. “We must pass a bill making clear Trump can’t start a war without a vote,” the senator said.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat, confirmed Van Hollen’s misgivings about the meeting and the memo. When pressed by a reporter over whether he saw evidence to justify the attack, Manchin responded in the negative, The Daily Beast reported.
“No, I did not,” Manchin said. “What I saw was basically the president’s responsibility to notify us within 24 hours. He did that and gave many reasons for what he did.”
Many have been critical of the decision to kill Soleimani, an order that the president himself gave out last week, noting it did not take into consideration the consequences of such an action. As a result of the assassination, Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles toward U.S. military bases in Iraq on Tuesday. Tensions have eased for now, but many lawmakers remain wary of the Trump administration’s future plans for how to deal with Iran.