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Trump planned Qassem Soleimani’s assassination from 2017 before US blew up Iranian general in drone strike killing

THE ASSASSINATION of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani has been in plans since 2017.

Those plans surfaced shortly after Mike Pompeo became the director of the CIA under former President Donald Trump.

Pompeo gathered agency leaders including the CIA’s Counterterrorism Mission Center and the Special Activities Center to discuss how to take down Soleimani, a former senior CIA official to Yahoo News.

Talks about assassinating Solemani began in the White House in the summer of 2018. It was around the same time the Trump administration said that it is withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, according to Yahoo News.

At the time those discussions took place, the National Security Council was considering assigning the killing mission to the Pentagon’s special operations. 

The Pentagon had ruled out any options suggested by Trump to kill Soleimani. 

“[Trump] wanted options, but they were always watered down, the Pentagon always equated it to nuclear war, and said there was going to be a backlash,”  the deputy national security adviser for the Middle East at the time, Victoria Coates told Yahoo News.

The concern of a backlash from Iran changed when Iranian proxies launched a rocket strike that killed a US contractor in northern Iraq in December 2019. 

It was at this time that plans to kill Soleimani began to solidify, according to Yahoo News.

A number of US officials including the National Security Council and the State Department outlined options for killing Soleimani and sent it to Trump’s desk.

Officials at the Joint Special Operation Command gave the National Security Council four options to kill the Iranian leader. 

These options include using a long-range sniper shot, assigning a tactical team on the ground to attack his vehicle,  plan an explosion, or launching an airstrike, current and former administration officials told Yahoo News.

 Officials settled on the airstrike option as a way to kill Soleimani.

Soleimani was not the only target that the US wanted to take down on January 3. Former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told Yahoo News that there was a list of people that the US military wanted dead.

This US attempted to kill Abdulreza Shahlai, Quds Force’s top commander in Yemen that same night Soleimani was killed, according to several US officials. 

A former senior CIA official said that Shahlai was supervising Iran’s efforts to supply weapons to Houthis and their allies in Yemen.

The US planned to take down other targets in Syria the night Soleimani was killed, but those missions were aborted for unclear reasons, according to Yahoo News.

The concern over the aftermath of Soleimani’s death was “on a bigger scale,” according to a former CIA official who said that the Quds Force would try to “kill members of the Saudi or Emirati royal families, [or] foment coups or [launch attacks on oil infrastructure,” the official said.  

Soleimani was killed at Baghdad airport that was coming from Syria. He was killed  by a US air strike, personally approved by Trump.

Two missiles fired from a MQ9 Reaper drone struck Soleimani after he disembarked from an aircraft at Baghdad airport.

The Pentagon justified the assassination, saying General Soleimani was "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region".

The drone strike came days after protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, clashing with US forces at the scene.

The Pentagon said Soleimani approved the attacks on the embassy.

After Soleimani’s death, Trump said he "served up American justice" after ordering the drone strike which killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani.

Trump said that Soleimani was "actively planning new attacks" against the US in Baghdad and beyond, deriding his Democratic opponents.

"We stopped him, and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold," Trump added, in the wake of opposition to the escalating tensions with Iran.

Iran's Soleimani spearheaded Iran's military operations in the Middle East as head of the country's elite Quds Force.

He joined the Revolutionary Guards - who have been declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US - in 1979, taking over as head of the Quds Force in 1998.

He was considered to be one of the most powerful figures in the country, masterminding Iranian intelligence and military operations abroad.

Outside of war-games he was considered to be even more pivotal, with commentators comparing his role to that of US Vice President, Mike Pence.

He is thought to have directly reported to Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader.

He gained a mysterious reputation, and was reported to have survived many assassination attempts.

Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia were closely following his movements as he cultivated Iran's military influence in the Middle East, with the US believing he was behind attacks on Americans staying in the region.

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