The Trump administration’s initial justification for the 3 January strike that killed Iran’s Soleimani was the threat of “imminent” attacks against American interests. That rationale proved shaky over the past two weeks, with government officials contradicting one another and even themselves.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the assassination of Qassem Soleimani was part of a “bigger strategy” to deter Iran and other US rivals, including Russia and China, in what marked a significant departure from Washington’s original account.
“President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrents – real deterrents – against the Islamic Republic,” Pompeo said in a speech at Stanford’s Hoover Institute on Monday.
“Your adversary must understand not only that you have the capacity to impose cost but that you’re in fact willing to do so,” Pompeo said, adding that the US is now in “the greatest position of strength regarding Iran” ever because of the stringent sanctions that Trump re-imposed on the Islamic Republic following his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The importance of deterrence isn’t confined to Iran,” Pompeo said. “In all cases, we must deter foes to defend freedom. That’s the whole point of President Trump’s work to make our military the strongest it’s ever been.”
He went on to cite the much-criticised withdrawal from the INF treaty and naval exercises in the contested South China Sea as examples of America’s “deterrence” policy toward Russia and China, respectively.