Defense Secretary Mark Esper backed President Trump's claim that Iranian militia groups had targeted four USA embassies for attack as the reason for taking out Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike. "What the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well", Esper said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been", Mr. Esper said on CBS. In recent days, Trump's national security officials have contradicted each other about how imminent a threat the Iranian general posed, whether they had specific intelligence on the threat and even what that threat was, with Trump saying one thing then another, while officials offered varying explanations.
And in an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, Esper said he "didn't see" a specific threat against four embassies in the intelligence. 'I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies.
In a Twitter post later on Sunday, Trump cited O'Brien's interview and wrote: "Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate".
On Friday during an interview in Fox News, Trump said the United States killed General Qassem Soleimani earlier this month to avert an upcoming attack on four USA embassies when the government first made this specific allegation.
Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was no discussion in the briefing given to the Gang of Eight about plots against four embassies.
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. "The embassies are the most prominent example of American presence in a country".
When O'Brien appeared on "Fox News Sunday", he said the administration knew there were threats to American facilities.
ESPER: That was orchestrated by Qassem- Qassem Soleimani. "But everything the president has said is consistent with and interpretation is very consistent with the intelligence, which showed that Soleimani was plotting to kill Americans - soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and our diplomats".
President Donald Trump has called on the Iranian regime to allow human rights groups to monitor protests in the Islamic Republic. '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.
Esper said Iran's paramilitary Quds Force is still a threat in the Middle East, but the specific attacks that he said were planned by Soleimani have been "disrupted". "Sometimes it depends on how the questions are asked and how they are formulated", he said.
But this issue seemed to be resolving on Sunday when Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that although he shared the view that four embassies were at risk, he hadn't seen any specific intelligence to prove it.
'I'm not going to discuss intelligence matters here on the show.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of DE, member of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said he was anxious: "Iran has many ways in which they can take action against us, both openly and hiddenly, and I don't think they did it to take revenge".
Trump's claim about threats against embassies was also not part of a Senate briefing earlier this week, Sen.