Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Breitbart News Saturday and recounted the lead-up to the Trump administration’s decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, including the meeting with then-President Donald Trump to sign off on the successful drone strike.
At the top of the interview, host Matthew Boyle asked Pompeo to detail the lead-up to the decision detailed in his new book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love and covered in an exclusive by Breitbart News ahead of the book’s release last week.
“It’s the classic example of how I worked every day to put America First and what happens when you start to give an inch. We were starting to lose deterrence against the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians,” said Pompeo. “They were firing artillery into the American embassy in Baghdad, they had shot down two American UAVs in international airspace, so we were losing the central thesis of our foreign policy, which was to keep America secure, you have to deter the bad guys. And, so, we ultimately, through some work that I had done when I was CIA director with our partners in Israel, Mossad, and then some later efforts, we get this opportunity. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of what was known as the IRGC Quds Force, the external terror arm of Iran, had killed 500 Americans and was plotting to kill more, and all it came together. And he was traveling from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad, and we got this chance, and we ultimately took a strike to make sure he never killed another American or an Israeli or anybody else.”
Pompeo then emphasized that the Trump Administration’s foreign policy team “deterred the plot,” “convinced the Iranians to back off,” and the mission was done “against an establishment foreign policy that would have said you can’t do it.”
“Everybody’s known for decades Soleimani was a bad guy, that General Soleimani had killed 500 plus of our soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines, but they were too timid, and they didn’t want to defend the things that mattered,” Pompeo said. “And President Trump, combined with the work we did, we pushed back against the Washington establishment foreign policies and delivered security to the country. ”
Boyle then asked Pompeo to describe the meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, where the 45th president was spending the holidays, on December 29, 2019. The meeting included Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, all of whom were behind the plan after Pompeo shared it with them ahead of the meeting.
“Oh my gosh, it was really something,” Pompeo said.
“Think about this: This is a handful of days before Covid begins to become something that the American people are thinking about, and we knew that we had this secret operation that we were briefing the president on,” he added. “We had told him about this before, it wasn’t brand new to him, so he had been briefed on various different alternatives, but, for the first time, we actually had the laydown – the actual model that could deliver the outcome. So we briefed him. We informed him of the risks. There were those who said, ‘The Iranians will attack us all over in America and Europe. They’ll attack American interests around the world,’ but we were convinced we laid the groundwork to prevent that.”
“And it was really something, when we were getting up to walk out, I reminded the president that the strike was going to be at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and that we had not taken a strike like this at a commercial airfield before, where there was commercial traffic. [Trump] basically turned to me and said, ‘Don’t F it up, don’t mess it up,’” Pompeo laughed. “And the good news is we didn’t. We got it right, we took out Soleimani, there was no collateral damage. We had convinced not only the Iranians but the Chinese and the North Koreans that we were serious about protecting the things that mattered and made a really — it was quite a briefing. We flew back here. It took us another three and half days to line it all up, and the mission was executed in early January of ’20.”
While recounting some of the backdoor diplomacy that preceded and followed the fatal strike on Soleimani, Pompeo noted that on January 7, 2020, Iran retaliated with strikes on Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq, which was hosting American troops, resulting in some servicemembers being injured, but no deaths.
“In the book, I write about a letter that we had transmitted to Soleimani previously making clear, ‘You got to stop this.’ And had we not backed up that with deeds, then we would have been in a really bad way that in the event when it came to be. We made clear to the Iranians that this was our strike. They responded after the strike at al-Assad where there were a handful of Americans injured, it breaks my heart, serious stuff, but it wasn’t World War III, and we didn’t end up with conflict — in fact, just the opposite,” said Pompeo. “That strike enabled what became the Abraham Accords because the Gulf Arab States came to say, ‘Hey Pompeo, Trump — these guys are serious about the things they promised, and they’re going to deliver.’”
“I was really troubled Nancy Pelosi wasn’t happy,” he added. “By the way, you can see comments from Joe Biden, he thought this was stupid as well. They just misunderstand American power. They think American power comes from deploying 40,000 somewhere across the world. American power comes from clarity and action, following up on the thing you’re going to do, and when we did that, they understood we were serious, and we did not get the blowback that they had feared. We were fundamentally right, and we created more strength and prosperity for the United States of American as a result of the strike that we took.”
Breitbart News Saturday airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern.