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White House memo justifying fatal strike on Iranian general cites previous attacks but no imminent threat

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / Jan. 9
                                Women walk past a banner of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack, in Tehran, Iran last month.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / Jan. 9

    Women walk past a banner of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack, in Tehran, Iran last month.

WASHINGTON >> The White House told Congress today that President Donald Trump authorized the strike last month that killed Iran’s most important general to respond to attacks that had already taken place and deter future ones, contradicting the president’s claim that he acted in response to an imminent threat.

In a legally mandated, two-page unclassified memo to lawmakers, the White House asserted that the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani was “in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months” by Iran and Iran-backed militias.

“The purposes of this action were 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 Quds Force-backed militias’s ability to conduct attacks, and to end Iran’s strategic escalation of attacks,” said the report, which was transmitted today to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The document confirmed what lawmakers had privately suspected as the Trump administration has offered a shifting set of justifications for the strike against Soleimani in Baghdad — taken with no congressional consultation — which brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war.

In the days after the strike that killed Soleimani, administration officials gave a variety of rationales for the action.

Trump said the strike was conducted in response to imminent threats to American lives but declined to provide any evidence, leaving lawmakers in both parties irate.

Today’s report came a day after the Senate passed a resolution aimed at restraining Trump’s war-making powers with Iran.

The rare bipartisan vote illustrated the depth of the skepticism in both parties about the president’s strategy and lawmakers’ frustration with the administration’s refusal to consult Congress on military matters. The House is expected to pass the measure soon, sending it to the president’s desk. Trump’s advisers have said he will veto it.

Today’s report only discussed previous acts of aggression by Iran. It cited as a legal framework the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief and the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq that Congress passed in 2002.

The House last month voted to repeal the 2002 law, with lawmakers in both parties arguing that the authorization had become outdated and been abused by presidents as a blank check to circumvent Congress in taking military action.

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