The operation against General Suleimani may prove to have consequences beyond the direct relationship with Iran. Outraged that the general was killed after arriving at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel the 5,000 American troops from the country. Such a decision would still have to be enacted by the caretaker government, but the Pentagon has begun preparing for the possibility of losing its bases in the country nearly 17 years after the invasion ordered by President George W. Bush.
Lawmakers in both parties welcomed Mr. Trump’s decision to pull back from further military action, but Democrats expressed discontent with briefings provided on Wednesday about the supposedly “imminent” threat of attack cited in justifying the drone strike on General Suleimani. Several Republicans as well as Democrats said the presentations were unpersuasive and raised questions about why Mr. Trump had decided to take out the commander now.
Even though the threat of further conflict appeared to recede for now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote on Thursday on a measure curtailing Mr. Trump’s war-making power by requiring him to halt military action against Iran within 30 days unless Congress votes to approve it. Such a measure has little chance of becoming law, however, given Republican control of the Senate and Mr. Trump’s veto pen.
Mr. Trump’s 10-minute televised statement on Wednesday morning was his most extended effort to explain last week’s drone strike on General Suleimani. Aside from a four-minute statement on Friday morning, he has stuck to Twitter blasts, comments to reporters and a call into Rush Limbaugh’s radio show without making an official speech outlining his thinking.
For the statement, he surrounded himself with his top national security advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser. They stood stoically around the president without commenting.
The administration’s messages have at times been conflicting and confusing. The president was forced to walk back threats to target Iranian cultural sites after his defense secretary made clear that doing so would be a war crime. The American headquarters in Baghdad had drafted a letter indicating it was withdrawing from Iraq, only to have the Defense Department say it was a draft document with no authority.
In his statement, Mr. Trump defended his decision to order the drone strike, calling General Suleimani “the world’s top terrorist” responsible “for some of the absolutely worst atrocities” of recent years.