How Trump Made His 'Tremendously Bold' Choice

During talks at Mar-a-Lago, he apparently wanted blood right away
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 4, 2020 4:30 PM CST
How Trump Decided to Hit Soleimani
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, center, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.   (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

During his annual Christmas vacation, President Trump huddled at his Florida club with top national security advisers. Days earlier, a rocket attack by an Iranian-funded group struck a US-Iraqi base, killing an American contractor and wounding several others. Trump's advisers presented him with an array of options for responding, including the most dramatic possible response: taking out Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian responsible for hundreds of Americans deaths. Trump immediately wanted to target Soleimani, the AP reports. It was a decision his predecessors had avoided and one that risked inflaming tensions with Tehran. Some advisers voiced concern about the legal justification for a strike without evidence of an imminent attack in the works against Americans.

So other options were discussed with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, including bombing the group blamed for killing the contractor. But Trump remained focused on Soleimani, which surprised his aides, because Trump had long been reluctant to deepen US military engagement around the world. "It was tremendously bold and even surprised many of us," an administration official tells the Washington Post. By Thursday, officials said they had intelligence indicating Soleimani was plotting against Americans. Trump slipped out of a meeting with advisers that day to OK the strike. His decision has sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East and dramatically escalated tensions between the US and Iran.

(More Qasem Soleimani stories.)

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