WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military may strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates for the Trump administration's killing of Tehran's most powerful general last week by attacking Americans or American interests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.
As Pompeo conducted a round of TV interviews to explain President Donald Trump's decision to target Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the repercussions from that attack played out: The Iraqi Parliamen t called on the 5,200 U.S. forces in the country to leave; the U.S. military coalition in Baghdad suspended training of Iraqi forces to concentrate on defending coalition troops; and in Beirut, the Lebanese Hezbollah chief said U.S. forces throughout the Mideast are fair targets for retaliation.
Even a Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the move by Iraqi lawmakers "a bit concerning.''
In Tehran, Iranian state television reported that the country will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with the United States and other world powers. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018 and stepped up economic sanctions on Tehran — actions that accelerated a cycle of hostilities leading to the Soleimani killing.
The State Department had no immediate comment on Iran reportedly abandoning the nuclear deal, a move that holds the prospect of Iran accelerating its production of materials for a nuclear weapon.
Democrats in Congress complained about the administration's failure to consult with legislative leaders before conducting the drone attack Friday against Soleimani, and the White House faced a barrage of questions about the killing's legality. Pompeo said the administration would have been "culpably negligent" in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed Soleimani, although he did not provide evidence for his previous claims that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans.
Instead of arguing that an attack had been imminent, Pompeo said it was inevitable.
"We watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack – that's what we believed – and we made the right decision," he said, adding later: "We continue to prepare for whatever it is the Iranian regime may put in front of us within the next 10 minutes, within the next 10 days, and within the next 10 weeks."
Congressional Democrats were skeptical.
"I really worry that the actions the president took will get us into what he calls another endless war in the Middle East. He promised we wouldn't have that," said Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate's top Democrat.
Schumer said Trump lacks the authority to engage militarily with Iran and Congress needs a new war powers resolution "to be a check on this president." To which Pompeo said: "We have all the authority we need to do what we've done to date."
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the administration violated the Constitution by not consulting with Congress in advance.
"It's also important because one, you potentially get members of Congress to buy in ahead of time, and two, they may ask that hard question that's not asked in an insular group," Warner said.
Congressional staffs got their first briefings from the administration on Friday, and members are expected to be briefed this week.