Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Friday before testifying before the House foreign affairs committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified in Congress Friday and told lawmakers the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander last month was a smart move that reduced the risk to American troops in the Middle East.
Pompeo told the House foreign affairs committee that he supported President Donald Trump's order for the Jan. 3 strike to kill Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, as did other advisers. Iran retaliated with missile strikes against two U.S. positions in Iraq, which injured dozens of U.S. troops.
"It was my judgment that this reduced risk to America to take this strike," Pompeo told the panel Friday. "I think the team all presented that to the president. He made the final decision that was right, that we would reduce risk both in the short-term, medium-term and in the long-term to American interests."
Pompeo said the drone attack that killed Soleimani deterred Iranian aggression and weakened Tehran's military capabilities.
"I can say in an unclassified setting [Iran] recognizes the seriousness with which America acted to take the strike," Pompeo said. "I think they appreciate the seriousness with which President Trump and the administration are taking, our obligation to defend America and our partners. It clearly demonstrated our preparedness to continue to deter Iran's behavior and [Trump] thinks they have taken that seriously."
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., chided Pompeo for waiting more than a month to appear before the committee to field questions about Solemani's death. Pompeo answered that Congress had been briefed 70 times since the strike was carried out.
Sherman also accused the Trump administration of trivializing the 110 soldiers who received brain injuries in the Iranian counterattack.
Pompeo's appearance Friday was met by a significant throng of protesters who advocate for peaceful relations with Iran. The activists carried signs in the committee room and wore shirts that read, "Peace with Iran."
The secretary of state also defended the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
"I commit to you, as we need resources, if we find out there aren't sufficient resources to address the problem where we can create value and reduce risk, we will come to you," Pompeo said. "We will execute that and we will deliver for the American people."
Pompeo will be a keynote speaker Friday night at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., which will finish with a speech by Trump on Saturday.