Days ahead of the assassination of high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official Gen. Qasem Soleimani, President Donald Trump was dropping hints to guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, telling them to expect something “big” very “soon” in Iraq. “He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” a source who was at Mar-a-Lago told The Daily Beast.
The Trump administration also forewarned Israel of the intended killing. “Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago,” said journalist and commentator Barak Ravid, who has sources within Israel’s government, according to the Los Angeles Times. Another source, an Israeli army officer, told the paper that the attack “did not come as a surprise.”
Meanwhile, contrary to tradition, Trump neglected to inform top Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ahead of the strike. And Senate staff were told about as much as people at the resort.
Even when Senate staff received a briefing on Friday following the Thursday killing, one anonymous source told The Daily Beast that Trump’s administration seemed to have no plans for de-escalating the situation or what they would do next.
“This administration has absolutely not earned the benefit of the doubt when it makes these kinds of claims. When you’re taking action that could lead to the third American war in the Middle East in 20 years, you need to do better than these kinds of assertions,” a Senate aide who attended the briefing said.
Although Trump officials are claiming that the attack was made to prevent further violence, “At the very least, it furthers division in the country and raises the political temperature,” an Iraqi official said. “We need de-escalation and this is the mother of all escalations.”
Aside from Trump’s seemingly strange choices regarding who knew about the attack ahead of time, some have raised concerns that the attack might have actually been illegal according to international law. Agnes Callamard, a human rights expert and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, tweeted that the Pentagon’s statement on killing Soleimani “mentions that it aimed at ‘deterring future Iranian attack plans.’ This however is very vague. Future is not the same as imminent which is the time based test required under international law.”
Callamard went on to say that the statement ”places far greater emphasis on past activities and violations allegedly [committed] by Soleimani. As such the killing appears far more retaliatory for past acts than anticipatory for imminent self-defense.” She also said the statement did not include mention of those killed alongside Soleimani. “Collateral? Probably. Unlawful. Absolutely.”