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O’Brien defends ‘exquisite’ intelligence justifying Soleimani killing

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White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday defended the intelligence that prompted the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani Sunday, calling it “exquisite.”

“We had exquisite intelligence and the intelligence showed that they were looking at U.S. facilities throughout the region and that they wanted to inflict casualties on American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, as well as diplomats,” O’Brien told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”

“The threat was imminent,” he added. “I saw the intelligence.”

Members of Congress who attended a briefing by national security officials about the rationale for the killing of Soleimani have said that they were offered few details and that a claim made by President Trump days later than the general was readying an attack on four U.S. embassies was never mentioned.

However, O’Brien defended the claim, telling Todd on Sunday that “the president’s interpretation of that intelligence is very consistent with it.”

O’Brien also defended the lack of any alert to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad outlining the imminent threat Trump described.

“[T]his is a very fast-moving situation and Soleimani was traveling around the region plotting against the United States,” O’Brien said. “As soon as it looked like there was going to be some sort of action against the U.S. Embassy, the president was decisive and bold in his action.”

He declined to say what protections were in place for other embassies in the region.

“I am not going to get into the details of those and give our playbook out to the other side, but we were very concerned about embassies throughout the region,” he said.

O’Brien also would not further elaborate on how the administration defined “imminent,” saying: “I think imminent generally means soon, quickly, in process, so I think those threats were imminent and I don’t want to get into the definition further than that but we took the measures necessary to protect American diplomats and our soldiers, sailors and our Marines.”


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