January 04, 2020

Pence Links Soleimani to 9/11. The Public Record Doesnt Back Him
In a series of tweets Friday defending President Donald Trump's decision to authorize the drone strike that killed Iran's top intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Vice President Mike Pence reeled off a list of some of Soleimani's most notorious attacks and machinations. Pence described "an evil man" who had threatened American national security interests for decades.In one of his tweets, Pence claimed that Soleimani helped 10 of the men who would go on to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks cross through Iran and enter Afghanistan. That does not match established historical accounts of Soleimani or public U.S. intelligence about the hijackers.WHAT WAS SAIDPence said on Twitter that Soleimani "assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States."This lacks evidence. How Pence arrived at this number and this account is unclear. From what is commonly known about Soleimani and the group of men who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, their paths did not cross.To start, many observers were quick to point out that 19 terrorists, not 12, were involved in the attacks. Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for Pence, clarified that he was referring to a subset of 12 of the attackers who are known to have traveled through Afghanistan. She did not provide any evidence supporting the claim that Soleimani chose to assist only 10 of them.The notion that Soleimani abetted the attackers at all also appears dubious.By 2001, Soleimani had already been named head of the Quds Force, the powerful security branch that often coordinates with other terrorist groups worldwide. Yet the general was not named at any point in the 9/11 Commission Report.In fact, the report states in no uncertain terms that neither the Iranian government nor Hezbollah, a group that Soleimani worked closely with, ever knew anything about the attacks or helped facilitate them: "We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al-Qaida operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation."Why Soleimani, leader of a hard-line Shiite Muslim military apparatus, would have come to the aid of members of al-Qaida, a Sunni extremist group with strong ties to Saudi Arabia, is also unclear.Soleimani spent much of his career undermining Saudi Arabia, and once even plotted to have the Saudi ambassador to the United States assassinated. At various points, he was also said to have helped facilitate the capture of al-Qaida militants on behalf of the United States.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
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