A White House memo sent to Congress stating the justification for the killing of a top Iranian general makes no mention of an imminent attack, something President Donald Trump claimed was the rationale for the airstrike.
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was killed in a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 3 in Iraq. That same day, Trump said he ordered the strike because, he claimed, the general was planning "imminent and sinister attacks."
The memo, released Friday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the Constitution gives the president the authority to use military force to protect the nation from the threat of imminent attack. But the memo does not specifically say there was an imminent threat from Soleimani. The White House wrote that the strike was a response to attacks in preceding months and to deter Iran from future attacks against U.S. interests.
The memo goes on to say "Iran's past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran's Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq, and the air strike against Soleimani was intended to protect United States personnel and deter future Iranian attack plans against United States forces and interests in Iraq and threats emanating from Iraq."
Soleimani's death dramatically ratcheted up tensions between the U.S. and Iran. With Iranians taking to the streets demanding blood, there was concern the U.S. would be going to war.
Iran launched a retaliatory strike a few days later, targeting missiles at Iraqi air bases that house U.S. forces. Although Trump initially said "no Americans were harmed," the Pentagon said as recently as last week that at least 109 U.S. service members suffered what it described as mild traumatic brain injuries.
The same night as that missile strike, Iran admits it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.