Mark Esper Defends Strike On Soleimani, Says It’s Better Than Having ‘Flag-Draped Coffins Come Home’
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that he was fully behind President Donald Trump’s decision to authorize the strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Esper spoke about that strike with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” defending the president’s position and belief that a threat was imminent. (RELATED: Trump-District Democrat Draws Red Line At Soleimani)
Esper prefaced the interview by saying that Americans were unquestionably safer following the death of Soleimani, and Tapper pressed him on the intelligence that had led up to the strike — particularly President Trump’s claim that he “believed” up to four embassies may have been imminent targets.
“The important thing is that Soleimani orchestrated and resourced the attacks up to December 1 that killed an American and orchestrated the siege on the embassy in Baghdad and was planning a broader plot in multiple countries that is bigger in scale and likely to take us to open hostility with Iran,” Esper said. “And in fact, a very, very senior intel community member said that the risk of inaction is greater than the risk of action. That is compelling.”
“And you say that there is evidence, but you could believe that Soleimani was going to attack the Eiffel Tower —” Tapper pushed back.
Esper went on to note that he could not reveal specifics with regard to intelligence, but made it clear that he stood with the president’s assessment of the situation.
“He believed that there was a threat to four embassies and were the four embassies alerted to the threat to them?” Tapper asked.
“All of them were alerted and that is why there were deployed additional troops,” Esper confirmed, adding, “And let me say this, Jake, I’m glad we’re having this discussion today because I’d rather be here discussing this topic with you than going up to Dover Air Force Base and standing there while flag-draped coffins come home, and I have to explain to husbands and wives, sons and daughters, why their service members died while I had information to prevent it from happening.”