Pentagon chief says Soleimani's threat to U.S. counted by days

Li Jiayao
2020-01-08 08:31:25

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday that persuasive intelligence report shows the threat posed by Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was "a matter of days," in an effort to justify the U.S. airstrike that killed him.

"I can assure you (the intelligence) is more than razor-thin and persuasive ... I think it was only a matter of days, certainly no more than weeks," said the Pentagon chief when asked by CNN whether the threat was imminent as the Trump administration claimed.

Esper also suggested that the United States seek to avoid military conflict with Iran. "We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one," he said.

"What we would like to see is the situation de-escalated and for Tehran to sit down with us and begin a discussion about a better way ahead," he added.

Esper's words came hours after Iran's parliament designated the U.S. Department of Defense as a "terrorist organization."

The New York Times reported over the weekend that some U.S. officials "voiced private skepticism about the rationale for a strike on General Suleimani," pointing out that the intelligence indicating imminent threat was thin.

The Trump administration officials will provide a classified briefing on Iran on Tuesday for congressional leaders and Republican and Democratic leaders of the intelligence committees, and then classified briefing for the full House and Senate on Wednesday, according to media reports.

Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad airport on Friday, raising fear of an uncontrolled escalation in the region.

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