US Doesn’t Expect More Iranian Retaliatory Attacks, Says Pentagon Chief

The New York Times Building

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday said he did not see specific evidence from intelligence officials that Iran was planning to attack four US embassies, an assertion made by President Donald Trump in justifying the killing of Iran's top general.

"I know that other members of the national security team share this view, so I've deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to strengthen our embassy in Baghdad and other locations in the region", he said. And in response to a question whether Trump "embellished the threat", Esper said, "I don't think so". "What the president said was that he believed there might have been attacks against additional embassies", Esper said in an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation". "I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies". "I haven't seen any of four messages", he said. But Esper said he shared the President's belief that the embassies were threatened by Qasem Soleimani.

Looking back on the dramatic sequence of events that preceded the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner on Wednesday, Esper justified the American assassination of Soleimani as an act of self-defense, and said that the U.S. no longer foresees Iranian military attacks in retaliation.

O'Brien had suggested the United States sees this moment as an opportunity to further intensify pressure on Iran's leaders, with whom the USA has been at odds for four decades. Demonstrators defied the heavy police presence to protest their country's days of denials that it shot down the Ukrainian plane. Let me just say this -' Esper said, but was cut off by Tapper who brought up Trump's Fox News Channel interview.

ESPER: That was orchestrated by Qassem- Qassem Soleimani.

'The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime."Our great American forces are prepared for anything", he added."Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world", the President told his nation". 'He orchestrated the siege on the USA embassy in Baghdad and he was planning this much broader plot in multiple countries that would be bigger in scale and that likely would have taken us to open hostility with Iran. Washington considered both commanders to be behind the attack on the United States embassy in Baghdad on December 31.

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"I feel I would have remembered if they had presented this type of information at the meeting", Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Told The Washington Post.

"Are you saying there was none?"

When Tapper asked Esper to expand on if there was intelligence to suggest follow-up attacks, the Pentagon chief said he wouldn't discuss specifics of the information on TV.

Trump's claim about threats against embassies was also not part of a Senate briefing earlier this week, Sen.

Trump and Esper are "fudging" the details, Schiff added, and "overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows". Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on CNN's "State of the Union".

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