The Trump administration slammed new sanctions on Iran Friday, while offering new and conflicting explanations behind the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine others in an air strike last week.
The new penalties affect segments of Iranian industry, including construction, manufacturing, textiles, mining, steel and iron. Other sanctions target specific Iranian officials.
“The president has been very clear: we will continue to apply economic sanctions until Iran stops its terrorist activities and commit that it will never have nuclear weapons,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
While announcing the sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo altered his explanation of why the U.S. launched the deadly drone attack on Qasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general.
USA Today reported that Pompeo and other Trump administration have given conflicting statements about how “imminent” the threat was from Soleimani – a critical question because it undergirds the administration’s legal justification for killing the Iranian general without notifying Congress.
Hours after the U.S. strike, Pompeo told CNN the Iranian general was planning an “imminent” attack, one that “would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk.”
On Wednesday, however, Pompeo seemed to step back from that claim, citing Soleimani’s history of attacks on Americans as justification for the attack. On Thursday, he seemed to retreat even further, telling Fox News that “we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”
During Friday’s sanctions news conference at the White House, Pompeo was asked for his definition of “imminent,” and responded: “This was gonna happen, and American lives were at risk.”
Democrats in Congress have raised questions about Pompeo’s assertions, and Trump’s national security team did not present evidence of an imminent threat during a classified briefing on Wednesday.
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