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Why Pompeo Can't Tell the Truth About Soleimani

A front-page diary right now is detailing how SoS Pompeo’s explanations for killing Soleimani make no sense: Mike Pompeo keeps blowing up Donald Trump’s excuses for blowing up an Iranian general. Turns out there’s a very good reason why Pompeo has to keep coming up with new  excuses and fairy tales: He’s been gunning for Soleimani for years. CNN reports this morning How Pompeo convinced Trump to kill Soleimani and fulfilled a decade-long goal:

Taking Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani “off the battlefield” has been a goal for the top US diplomat for a decade, several sources told CNN.

The secretary of state has been so fixated on the Iranian general that he even sought to get a visa to Iran in 2016 when he was a congressman from Kansas.  While he said it was to monitor elections, he also suggested to confidants that he wanted to try to confront Soleimani when he was there. He never got the visa.

Pompeo is a West Point graduate who lost friends to attacks backed by Soleimani and the Quds Force, who supplied insurgents with armor-busting bombs (Iran denies that claim). He was also CIA director and apparently saw Soleimani’s hand everywhere in the Middle East, mostly in opposition to the United States. Soleimani appears to have become an obsession with him.

Since becoming the top US diplomat, Pompeo has been the point person for the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. In April, Pompeo was a major force behind the Trump administration’s controversial move to designate Iran’s IRGC, including the Quds Force, as a foreign terrorist organization.
It was the first time the US had ever designated part of another government as a terrorist organization and laid a foundation for the legal rationalization to kill Soleimani, who had led the Quds Force since 1998.
In addition, it was only after Pompeo replaced Tillerson at State that Trump pulled out of the JCPOA.
There have been lots of stories this week about how, when the Defense Department presented Trump with a list of options, Soleimani was put on the list with the idea that it was so extreme Trump would pick something else. And that Mattis, when he was SecDef, warned his staff never to give Trump an extreme choice because that’s the one he would pick. Well, it looks to me that Pompeo, who has cultivated a strong relationship with the new SecDef, Esper, got him to put Soleimani on the list precisely because he wanted Trump to pick that most extreme option.
Pompeo has forged “very close relationships” with [CIA director] Haspel and Esper, alliances that bolstered his ability to make the case to Trump. “They all work together very, very closely,” said the former Republican national security official.

Pompeo also worked with the Senators that, as per the Wall St. Journal’s buried paragraph, Trump needs to keep the impeachment trial from becoming a real one. From the CNN story:

As planning got underway, Pompeo worked with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Mark Milley and the commander of CENTCOM Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie to assess the profile of troops in the field. Multiple sources also say that hawkish Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were kept in the loop and also pushed Trump to respond.

This goes a long way toward explaining the administration’s more incoherent than usual attempts to justify the assassination. There was no imminent threat — required to make Trump’s action lawful — just Pompeo’s long-standing intent to take Soleimani out.

The source told CNN that as the years have gone by, Pompeo has told friends and colleagues that “I will not retire from public service until Soleimani is off the battlefield.”

There’s been a lot of speculation here (including some by me) that Pompeo engineered the assassination of Soleimani to trigger the apocalypse and fulfill his dominionist fantasies. There may still be some of that, but it is noteworthy that either he didn’t push Trump to escalate the conflict further or that he tried and didn’t succeed. Given the influence he currently wields over Trump right now, I’m leading toward the former (that he didn’t try), though as with most things about the administration, the truth is hard to get.

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But what we do know is bad enough — we almost started World War III because Pompeo’s obsession with Soleimani — a bad actor whom no one will miss, let’s be clear — led him to push Trump into an ill-advised killing with no consideration for the consequences.

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