President Donald Trump approved the operation to kill Iranian military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, on Monday December 30.
He gave the order when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper, and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went to Palm Beach, Florida, to brief him on Pentagon airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia groups.
Quoting a senior U.S. official, Los Angeles Times’ David Cloud, wrote that the delegation to Trump presented a slide which listed several follow-up steps the U.S. could take, including targeting Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.
Trump chose that option and Pentagon immediately started the process of accomplishing the task.
“In our discussion today with the president, we discussed with him other options that are available.
“And I would note also that we will take additional actions as necessary,” Esper told reporters.
Already, Pentagon, CIA and others which had been tracking Soleimani for years, knew he was on an extended Middle East trip that had taken him to Lebanon and Syria.
They learned that he would be flying from Damascus to Baghdad within days as Soleimani’s recent movements were not kept secret.
Officials claimed that Soleimani’s trip before the strike was part of final stages of planning major attacks against U.S. facilities in several Middle East countries.
“He was personally going to a few locations for final planning authority for what we assessed to be something big,” an official said.
Soleimani’s was linked death of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq; a Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed an American military contractor near Kirkuk; the volent protests at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, among others.
A senior State Department official said new intelligence indicated Soleimani was plotting attacks on American diplomats, military personnel and facilities that house Americans in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
“There was consensus in the president’s national security Cabinet that the risk of doing nothing was unacceptable given the intelligence and given the effectiveness that Soleimani presents,” the official said.
When Soleimani arrived in Baghdad on Thursday, a U.S. drone and other military aircraft were circling near Baghdad International Airport.
He and several members of a pro-Iranian military got into two vehicles and were riding on the airport road toward downtown Baghdad when missiles fired from the drone struck.
Rescuers identified Soleimani’s body among the casualties by the blood-red ring he always wore that was still attached to his ash-covered left hand.