President Trump reiterated; ‘We will find you, we will eliminate you’ in a warning to terrorists after Soleimani’s killing.
Planned attacks against American diplomatic, military forces, and financial targets in Lebanon and Syria comprised the imminent threat cited by both Secretaries Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper as the reason President Trump ordered the taking out of top Iranian clandestine operations commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, early Friday morning, Iraq time.
As a former senior intelligence officer, it is important to understand that when we start seeing extensive and very solid intelligence that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks against the United States, the president as Commander-in-Chief has a duty to take decisive action. We must also weigh and consider the possible opposite reaction. That being, if we had not taken this action, if we had not responded to the actionable intelligence, resulting in potentially hundreds of Americans killed and or wounded. Americans, and naturally the media would be asking the President; ‘why didn’t you take out Soleimani when you have the chance and the opportunity.’
Consider General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when he said he was confident Soleimani was actively planning attacks against the U.S. in the Middle East and that intelligence indicated that those attacks were imminent. The Chairman stated following the strike,
“We had clear, compelling, unambiguous intelligence to indicate Soleimani was planning, coordinating, and directing a significant campaign of violence against the United States in the coming days.”
As part of the actionable intelligence flow; targets in Syria that were under imminent threat included military outposts that the U.S. maintains in the eastern part of the country⏤hence the reason for the drone strikes that were conducted in Syria last Sunday. Likewise, in Lebanon, Soleimani was planning attacks on diplomatic and financial targets. In fact, the collaborative actionable intelligence that we had was the fact that Soleimani was in Lebanon. The intelligence further indicated he was headed to Baghdad to meet-up with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force, the Shia opposition in Iraq. Soleimani’s meeting with al-Muhandis in Baghdad was reportedly to conduct follow-on planning and coordination in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s violent protests against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Other critical actionable intelligence was that he was scheduled to depart Lebanon enroute to and arriving at Baghdad International Airport late Thursday night-early Friday morning.
General Milley said he and the U.S. military were confident an attack was imminent because of “the size, scale and scope” of what was planned and “the seriousness of it” of what was indicated in the intelligence we had collected and received. At the same time, he also noted, “By the way, it might still happen.”
The fact that Soleimani was in Lebanon, one piece of the credible intelligence that we had gained and analyzed pointed to potential action against the U.S. in Lebanon. In response, Pentagon senior leaders and the intelligence community recommended to President Trump to approve the increase of security. In turn, U.S. military leadership alerted the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to prepare to deploy to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Lebanon should they come under attack. The combat team assigned to U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR) and headquartered in Vicenza, Italy. While the entire brigade was put on alert, if necessary it would most likely deploy a rifle company or a battalion of somewhere between 130-to-750 total troops.
My analysis suggests and certainly indicated based on the intelligence we had last week was that Soleimani had traveled to Syria, then to Lebanon, and with a final visit to Iraq last Thursday. That told me Soleimani was coordinating and approving final plans for attacks in each location he visited. Also understand Soleimani had been directing attacks against the U.S. inside Iraq, including the December 27th attack near Kirkuk that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members. Intelligence also validate and confirmed that Soleimani “approved it.” In fact, General Milley, stated, “I know that. One hundred percent.” And of course, the gist of all of this being the fact that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were killed in a U.S. military airstrike outside the Baghdad International Airport last Thursday.
The Democrat Party, members of Congress, NeverTrumpers and of course, the mainstream media⏤they are angry and beside themselves claiming that President Trump did not have the authority, nor did he either pre-brief or request permission to conduct the strike in General Solienani.
The President‘s authorization for the drone strike has led to push-back from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said the president did not receive the go-ahead from Congress and kept Democratic leadership in the dark about the action.
Vehemently reacting and responding, Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday; “Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America, and the world⏤further implying; we cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”
Pelosi further noted that the strike was carried out without an “authorization for use of military force” against Iran and without the consultation of Congress.
So to answer⏤President Trump didn’t need Congressional approval to kill Qassim Soleimani?
The answer is No!
The reason, the killing of Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad on Thursday was a lawful act, wholly compatible with President Trump’s responsibilities as Commander-in- Chief. President Trump had no obligation to consult Congress before ordering the operation which killed the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Let me first say this about the President’s responsibility to the U.S. Congress.
The first point to note is that there are legitimate and necessary debates over the ‘president’s executive authority’ in conducting ‘longer-term military operations.’ Again, let me stress “LONG TERM MILITARY” [operations and missions]. That’s critical.
Secondly, the executive branch is also legally obliged to brief members of the House and Senate Congressional Intelligence Committees, or at least the smaller “Group of Eight” who are the senior Congressional leaders, on any ongoing covert actions and or operations.
However, while there is ‘at least one’ major U.S. covert action program on Iran (and there are multiple), the requisite legal notice requirement(s) were not triggered by the single separate Soleimani strike and killing. That’s because this action was overt and narrowly defined in scope.
More importantly, and historically, there is a long tradition of government attorneys, the courts, and Congress deferring to presidents that ‘where they deem it necessary to use force to address a serious, near-term threat to U.S. security.’ Similarly, sometimes there is an existing Congressional authority for these actions, such as the post-Sept. 11 authorization that encompassed the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
But that authorization isn’t necessary where a credible near-term threat exists, and that was certainly the case with General Soleimani; after all, when it comes to murderous plots against Americans and critical American interests, the evidence file against Soleimani is broad, deep, and unequivocal. For just one example, as I noted in my article on Friday, Soleimani orchestrated a failed 2011 plot to bomb the Saudi Ambassador and dozens of innocent people dining in a Washington, D.C., restaurant.
When that attack operations officer warned his handler (Soleimani), that the explosion might kill 100 innocent Americans, Soleimani responded, “FUCK ‘EM.”
So to the Democrats, the political-left, NeverTrumpers, and the left-wing mainstream⏤this is who Soleimani was; a committed, highly capable, and ideologically vested enemy of U.S.. And as the Pentagon statement on his death suggests, Soleimani was certainly plotting new attacks against American interests when he was killed. I as a former senior intelligence officer stand by that!
Yes, Iran is escalating against American interests in a desperate effort to blackmail Washington into granting sanctions relief. But the legal context that ultimately matters most is the condition of Soleimani’s and Tehran’s ongoing threats to American diplomats, military forces and the American people. That threat was and is severe⏤President Trump as Commander-in-Chief, had obvious authority to address it.
But there is additional authority which I will point out. General Qassim Soleimani stood at the frontline of Iran’s international terrorist activities. Soleimani had been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist for his ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, which again had also been designated by the U.S. last year as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
Understand that the most important aspect of this designation is both to ensure and give the U.S. and the Commander-in-Chief the necessary legal authority to take appropriate, proportional, and expedient ‘direct action’ against terrorist groups, organizations or states that have or are intent on conducting terrorist acts against the U.S. and its citizens and interests.
Under that designation and authority, General Soleimani, as the head of the Quds Force had been designated by the U.S. State Department, and by the way, approved by the U.S. Congress⏤to be listed as an international Foreign Terrorist Organization. That designation was approved on April 15, 2019 with the IRGC added to the State Department’s FTO list, which includes 67 other terrorist organizations including; Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Kataeb Hezbollah, and al-Ashtar Brigades, all of which are funded, trained and supported by Iran and the IRGC Quds Force, led by General Soliemani.
Look, here’s the bottom line. Just as other presidents have done before him⏤President Trump has the power to use military force against terrorists and to defend against attacks.
Under the law, President Trump had full authority in ordering a drone strike against Soleimani without Congressional approval. Regardless of the argument being put forth by Democrats, the mainstream media, and various Progressive legal scholars⏤unfortunately, they’re wrong on the law and Constitution.
While the President has been accused of violating the executive order against assassinations⏤that long-time ban has never applied to terrorists, which Soleimani clearly was. He led Iran’s Quds Force, which has been designated as a terror group. Soleimani was also a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which President Trump also designated a terrorist group. As I said before, if President Trump’s drone strike was illegal, then so were Barack Obama’s raid on Osama bin Laden, as well as his hundreds of drone strikes over eight years as President.
Similarly, an analogy is the U.S. decision to shoot down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane in World War II. Many American Presidents have used force in such a way without Congressional approval, including Ronald Reagan in 1986 against Libya after the terror bombing in Berlin, Germany killed two American soldiers.
While Congress has the authority to declare war, under international law there is no need for such a declaration when a nation is acting in self-defense. President Trump’s authorizing of the drone strike to take out Soleimani was a defensive military action intended to prevent further attacks on U.S. troops and diplomats by a vicious enemy general hell-bent on planning and conducting more attacks across the region.
Furthermore, because of the necessary and critical urgency of the operation, based on fleeting actionable intelligence and the necessary need for the utmost secrecy, aka Operational Security (OPSEC) to avoid the risk of leaks and unauthorized disclosure of extremely high-level classified intelligence, and operation information, Trump needed to limit access. Again, as a result, the President was not required and he could not take the risk of briefing or consulting Congress. Especially, the Democrat leadership of this Congress who are notorious for leaking and subverting this President.
I can also positively assure you that any and all information regarding a pending covert operation⏤special operations strike, would have NO DOUBT been passed directly and immediately to the regime in Tehran. Mark my Word! And if you want to challenge me, bring it!