Media Outlets Cite Anonymous Sources To Push Conflicting Stories About Soleimani Death

January 13th, 2020
The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, attends celebrations marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 11, 2016 in Tehran. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Media outlets have reported multiple different stories about how the Trump administration made the decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, basing them all on anonymous sources.

The Washington Post began by publishing a Jan. 5 article alleging that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence pushed for Trump to approve Soleimani’s killing. WaPo cited officials “speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Pompeo pushed for a military reaction to Iran’s aggression previously, according to the article.

“Pompeo first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago, said a senior U.S. official, but neither the president nor Pentagon officials were willing to countenance such an operation,” the WaPo article said.

Another report, published by the New York Times on Jan. 7, wrote that President Donald Trump chose Soleimani’s killing from a list of options. His death was the most extreme option and stunned officials, according to anonymous sources. This was published on Jan. 7.

 

“They didn’t think he would take it,” according to the NYT article. “In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.”

WaPo also reported that Trumpr ecieved a list of options in its Jan 5 article. The NYT did not mention that Pompeo and Pence had pushed for a military reaction of this level, as WaPo did.

The NYT cited anonymous “Defense Department and administration officials.” It also sourced information to “senior officials” and other unknown people within the administration. The NYT noted that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper would not comment for the article. It also noted that General Mark Milley’s spokesperson said “some of the characterizations being asserted by other sources are false.”

“By late Thursday, the president had gone for the extreme option. Top Pentagon officials were stunned,” the article alleged.

 

In this picture taken on September 14, 2013, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is seen as people pay their condolences following the death of his mother in Tehran. (MEHDI GHASEMI/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

On Jan. 12, WaPo published a different report. This article alleged that Trump “had from his earliest days in office raised the possibility of killing” Soleimani.

“But within five months of taking office, Trump was raising the possibility of killing him — an idea he would bring up several times again in the months and years to follow,” WaPo wrote on Jan. 12.

This new information was attributed to “one current and one former U.S. official.” A “former senior Pentagon official” was also cited, and all remained anonymous so they could “discuss internal deliberations,” according to WaPo.

“Trump initially floated the possibility of killing Soleimani in the spring of 2017 when Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile at Saudi Arabia’s capital just before Trump’s arrival, according to one current and one former U.S. official,” WaPo’s article reads. “But then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resisted any action.”

On Jan. 13, a new report was published by NBC News. The article alleged that Trump authorized a strike against Soleimani seven months ago if Iran killed any Americans. This information was sourced to “five current and former senior administration officials.”

“That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said,” according to NBC News.

The White House, the National Security Council, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and the State Department did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment, the article added.

“The idea of killing Soleimani came up in discussions in 2017 that Trump’s national security adviser at the time, retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, was having with other administration officials about the president’s broader national security strategy,” according to NBC News, who cited this information to an “official.”

The Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News did not respond to requests for comment about its various conflicting stories all attributed to anonymous sources.

The Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 2 that Soleimani’s death came after it was discovered he was plotting to kill American diplomats and service members. Trump also tweeted Jan. 3 that the terrorist was plotting to kill Americans. (RELATED: Pentagon Says Trump Ordered Airstrike That Killed Top Iranian General At Baghdad Airport)

Shelby Talcott

Media Reporter