Pence: Intelligence shows Iran directing militias not to attack U.S. targets

Pence: Intelligence shows Iran directing militias not to attack U.S. targets
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence said Wednesday that intelligence is showing that Iran is directing its associated militias not to attack U.S. targets in the week after Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s death.

Pence told “CBS Evening News” that the militias, of which Soleimani was the “primary leader,” are being instructed to hold back on striking the U.S. 

“Frankly, we’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians,” he said. “And we hope that that message continues to echo.”

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CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked the vice president if the strike authorized by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE to kill Soleimani was like “taking a baseball bat to a hornets' nest,” referring to the Iranian proxy militias.

Pence acknowledged the challenge of facing the militias but said the U.S. has made clear that it “will not tolerate violence.”

“But we’re sending a very clear message as we did with those five airstrikes to militia bases,” he said.

The U.S. authorized strikes to Iranian-backed militia bases in Iraq last month, prompting protesters to storm the U.S. Embassy in Iraq shortly after. 

A few days later, Trump approved the strike that killed Soleimani, sparking Iran to promise retaliation. The president responded by threatening to strike 52 culturally significant sites in Iran if the country followed through on its promise.

Iran on Wednesday claimed responsibility for missile strikes that did not kill or injure anyone at two Iraqi bases that house U.S. personnel and coalition forces. Later that day Trump softened his tone toward Iran during an address to the nation, claiming that Iran was backing down and welcoming de-escalation.