Trump, Pompeo Walk to Brink of Blaming Iran for Rocket Attack

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday came close to blaming Iran for a rocket attack in Iraq last week in which two American troops and a British service member were killed. “Maybe we shouldn’t say yet,” said Trump when the question was posed to Pompeo at a White House news conference. Said Pompeo: “Let me just get back to you on the answer to that.”

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” credit=”REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst” align=”center” lightbox=”off” captionsrc=”custom” caption=”FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. ” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

The Pentagon said last week that Trump had authorized the U.S. military to respond to the March 11 rocket attack in Iraq. Trump has been preoccupied with addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States has blamed Iran-backed militia for the attack but has not yet said whether it was linked to the Iranian leadership in Tehran.

Tensions have been running high between the two longtime adversaries since Trump ordered a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.

When Pompeo was asked about whether Iran was responsible, Trump interjected: “We know plenty.”

Pompeo added: “We’ve made clear that the Iraqi Shi’a militias are funded, trained and equipped by the Iranians. We’ve urged the Iranians not to do that. We’ve told the Iranians that they will be held responsible for those attacks when they threaten American lives.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Jonathan Oatis)