White House Justifies Killing Soleimani for Past Actions, not Imminent Threats

Memo says Trump had authority to order the attack under 2002 AUMF

The White House released a memo on Friday to Congress justifying the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Despite earlier claims from the administration of Soleimani and his Quds Force planning imminent attacks on US personnel in the region, the memo uses past actions as the justification for the killing.

The memo says President Trump ordered the assassination on January 2nd “in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East region.”

Although the memo says one purpose of the action was to “deter Iran from conducting or supporting further attacks against United States forces,” it does not cite any specific threats. Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the killing was done to prevent imminent attacks and led on like they had the intelligence to prove it.

The New York Times recently reported that Iraqi military and intelligence officials believe the December 27th rocket attack that killed a US contractor was likely carried out by ISIS, not the Shi’ite militia the US blamed and retaliated against. This attack led to a series of provocations that resulted in the assassination of Soleimani. Iraqi officials do not have proof that ISIS carried out the attack, but this possibility makes the US justification for killing Soleimani even more flimsy.

Lawmakers from both parties criticized Trump for killing Iran’s top general without congressional approval. The memo argues that Trump had authority to order the attack under Article II of the US Constitution, and under the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (2002 AUMF).

Congress is taking measures to limit Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran. The Senate passed the Iran War Powers Resolution on Thursday, and the House voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF in January.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) responded to the White House’s memo in a statement on Friday, “The administration’s explanation in this report makes no mention of any imminent threat and shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false, plain and simple.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is assistant editor at Antiwar.com and a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.