1/ Defense Secretary Mark Esper "didn't see" intelligence backing up Trump's claim that Iran was planning to strike four U.S. embassies. Trump previously told Fox News that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was "probably" going to attack "four embassies," including the "embassy in Baghdad." While Esper agreed with Trump that additional attacks against U.S. embassies were likely, he said Trump's comments were not based on any specific evidence. Esper also confirmed that he sent "thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites" based on Trump's evidence-free assertion. (Reuters / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / CNBC)
And it gets worse. This news has just broken on CNN:
There are only two possible conclusions that can be drawn from this: either, the threats were real and the Administration was grossly negligent in not notifying the embassies, or the threats were not real and Trump is, as per usual, lying to us. I’ll put my money on the latter.
State Department officials involved in US embassy security were not made aware of imminent threats to four specific US embassies, two State Department officials tell CNN, further undermining President Donald Trump’s claims that the top Iranian general he ordered killed earlier this month posed an imminent threat to the diplomatic outposts.
Without knowledge of any alleged threats, the State Department didn’t issue warnings about specific dangers to any US embassy before the administration targeted Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s second most powerful official, according to the sources.
The State Department sent a global warning to all US embassies before the strike occurred, a senior State Department official said and the department spokesperson confirmed, but it was not directed at specific embassies and did not warn of an imminent attack.
One senior State Department official described being “blindsided” when the administration justified the deadly Reaper drone strike on Soleimani by saying Iran’s “shadow commander” was behind an imminent threat to blow up US embassies. CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on claims that the State Department officials were taken by surprise.
Trump claimed at an Ohio rally that Soleimani “was actively planning new attacks,” then told Fox News, “I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” naming Baghdad as one. Senior administration officials around the President have repeatedly pointed to danger facing US embassies in the Middle East.
But State Department officials remain in the dark about the specific nature of that threat, the sources said. These officials also say the State Department did not produce the analysis that US embassies in the Middle East faced an imminent threat, the legally required threshold to justify Soleimani’s killing.
While security at US embassies in the region was increased in recent months, those steps weren’t taken immediately ahead of the Soleimani strike and weren’t the additional measures that are usually taken in an “imminent threat” situation, former State Department officials said.
The agency also failed to take steps that would be typical in a situation like this, former State Department officials said, failing to issue an explicit warning to diplomats overseas or take follow-up steps to limit diplomats’ movements or actively consider staff evacuations. …
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