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Pompeo Defends Killing Soleimani For Posing Imminent Threat

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on January 7, 2019.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended President Trump's decision to target Iran's Qassem Soleimani last Friday and said the decision was "entirely legal".

In response to a question on how imminent a threat Soleimani was to the United States, he said the decision to strike him was based on multiple pieces of information and President Donald Trump was presented with the threats in broad detail.

Pompeo referred to Soleimani's record in Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region; however, he did not elaborate or provide evidence for the threats that led to the killing.

Regarding President Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites the U.S. Secretary of State said: "Every action we take will be consistent with the international rule of law." When pressed more for a direct answer he said it is the Iranian regime that is a danger to the country's cultural heritage.

Pompeo also declined to elaborate on the reason Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif has been denied a U.S. visa to attend a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, saying "We don't comment on visa matters. We always comply with our obligations under the UN requirements in this instance and more broadly every day."

He also said it was not true that Soleimani had traveled to Baghdad on a diplomatic mission to discuss and coordinate de-escalation of tension with Saudi Arabia, as the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Iraqi parliament. Zarif has also said that Soleimani's mission in Iraq had been diplomatic.

"Anybody here believe that?" Pompeo asked and said: "We know that wasn't true. We not only know the history, we know in that moment that was not true. Zarif is a propagandist of the first order."

In his briefing, the U.S. Secretary of State once again reiterated that the United States will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons "under our watch".

The President will make the same kind of response as he made last week if Iran makes more bad decisions, Pompeo said.