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Esper: 'I didn't see' specific Iranian threat to U.S. embassies

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on January 12, 2020 - Duration: 01:54s

Esper: 'I didn't see' specific Iranian threat to U.S. embassies

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday said he did not see a specific Iranian plot to attack American embassies in Baghdad or elsewhere before the administration decided to kill an Iranian military commander, and Democratic lawmakers criticized the administration for ordering the airstrike.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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Esper: 'I didn't see' specific Iranian threat to U.S. embassies

(UPSOUND) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MARK ESPER AND CBS NEWS ANCHOR MARGARET BRENNAN: BRENNAN: "Was the specific threat that the president shared with Fox News about four U.S. embassies being under threat also shared with Congress?

Why was there a difference?" ESPSER: "What the president said was he believed that there probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies.

I shared that view." The head of the Pentagon on Sunday (January 12) defended U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to launch a drone strike against a top Iranian commander.

At the time the Trump administration cited an imminent threat posed by Major-General Qassem Soleimani.

Over the weekend Trump told Fox News, "I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.... But Baghdad certainly would've been the lead.

But I think it would've been four embassies, could've been been military bases, could've been a lot of other things too, but it was imminent." But pressed on this claim, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn't see specific evidence of the same threat.

(UPSOUND) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MARK ESPER AND CBS NEWS ANCHOR MARGARET BRENNAN: ESPER: "The president didn't say there was a tangible - he didn't cite specific piece of evidence.

What he's saying is that he probably, he believed -" BRENNAN: "-Are you saying there wasn't one?" ESPER: "I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies.

What I'm saying is I share the president's view, that probably, my expectation was that they were going to go after our embassies." The attack on Soleimani marked an unprecedented escalation in aggression between Washington and Tehran.

And Democratic lawmakers and even some Republicans demanded to see a justification for the strike.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine sits on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, and received a classified briefing after the Soleimani operation.

He said there was no mention of an imminent embassy attack.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TIM KAINE, SAYING: "That was not told to us in the classified briefing, nor was there a suggestion that multiple embassies were threatened.

And I think that was one of the reasons that the senators in the briefing were so unhappy.

We felt that the evidence was far short of imminent threat." Last week the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill along mostly party lines that would limit Trump's ability to take further military action against Iran.

Its fate in the Republican-controlled Senate is unclear, but at least two Republicans have expressed support.

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