The US Pentagon has thrown further doubts over the reason provided by President Donald Trump for ordering the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad at the start of the month.
The leader of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was described as presenting an "imminent" threat to the US but no detail of what the threat entailed has been provide by the Trump administration.
Democrats and some Republican members of Congress have demanded to see the evidence for the authorisation of drone strike which killed Soleimani along with Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, vice president of the Hashd Al-Shaabi group, or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), in Baghdad.
In an account giving by Trump over the assassination, the US president said that Soleimani had been targeting a number of US embassies, including the one in Baghdad. "I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies," Trump told Fox News on Friday. "Baghdad certainly would've been the lead. But I think it would've been four embassies that had been military bases, could've been a lot of other things too, but it was imminent. And then all of a sudden he was gone."
Trump's explanation has been contradicted by US Defence Secretary, Mark Esper. Speaking to CBS news yesterday, Esper said that he did not see specific evidence "with regard to four embassies" while at the same time appearing to endorse Trump's reasoning.
"What I'm saying is I share the president's view that probably, my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies," Esper said. "The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country."
Esper was asked if the threat was "imminent" as Trump claimed, to which he replied: "We had information that there was going to be an attack within a matter of days that would be broad in scale."
The sharp disparity between the defence secretary who said he did not see specific piece of evidence that Iran was planning an attack on four American embassies and a president insisting on that narrative, puts further doubt over the official explanation.
This is not the first time Trump has been contradicted by the Pentagon. Following the president's threat to destroy Iranian cultural heritage sites that were included in a list of 52 targets if Tehran retaliated, Esper was forced to extinguish the global outrage at Trump's expressed intention to commit war crimes.