Pence incorrectly links Iran to 9/11 while trying to justify America's assassination of the country's top general

Vice President Mike Pence greets attendees prior to a National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence greets attendees prior to a National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

  • Vice President Mike Pence incorrectly linked Iran to the 9/11 terror attacks in a series of tweets on Friday.
  • Pence was tweeting about the US military's assassination of a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, the day prior.
  • The official government report on the events leading up to the attacks, known as the 9/11 Commission report, undermines Pence.
  • The report states there is "no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack." Other reports have reached similar conclusions.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday incorrectly and misleadingly linked Iran to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in a series of tweets aimed at justifying the assassination of Iran's top general the day prior.

The US killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on Thursday, under the direct orders of President Donald Trump.

As the Trump administration defended the assassination on Friday, the vice president in a tweet said that Soleimani had 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."

But the official government report on the events leading up to the attacks, known as the 9/11 Commission report, undermines Pence.

The report states there is "no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack."

The report does say "there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers." But it does not say Soleimani was involved in that regard.

There were 19 hijackers on 9/11 - 15 from Saudi Arabia, one from Egypt, one from Lebanon, and two from the United Arab Emirates.

The Trump administration has repeatedly sought to present links between Iran and al Qaeda, the terror group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. This has raised concerns among congressional lawmakers that the Trump administration might attempt to invoke the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to launch a war against Iran.

The AUMF, which is still in effect, is a law that passed in the days following the 9/11 attacks and authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons."

The law, which was intended to give former President George W. Bush authority to go after those responsible for 9/11, has been loosely interpreted to effectively grant presidents carte blanche to wage war across the globe - it has been used by three presidents to justify dozens of operations in 19 countries.

In April, Pompeo sought to draw a link between Iran and Al Qaeda.

"The factual question with respect to Iran's connections to al Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country," Pompeo said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at the time. "There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop."

The 9/11 Commission report does say that several of the 9/11 hijackers, possibly up to eight, "transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan." But it adds that they did so to take advantage of "the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports."

A 2018 study from the New America think tank - based on hundreds of documents obtained from the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan - also undermines the notion Iran and al Qaeda share ties.

"The examined documents provide no evidence of cooperation between [al Qaeda] and Iran on planning or carrying out terrorist attacks," the study states.

Moreover, Iran is a majority Shia state and al Qaeda is a radical Sunni group, which means they have fundamental ideological differences and interpret Islam differently. This, among other reasons, is why many in Congress are skeptical of any attempts to tie Iran to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.

Though there's widespread consensus in Washington that Soleimani was an adversary of the US and responsible for the deaths of Americans, many congressional lawmakers, including some Republicans, have raised questions about the decision to take out the Iranian military leader.

The Trump administration has said it took out Soleimani to deter further attacks against Americans and in "response to imminent threats to American lives." Further evidence or information on the nature of those "imminent threats" has not been presented publicly.

National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said Friday that the 2002 AUMF,which paved the way for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided the legal justification for the deadly Soleimani strike. But Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine rejects this justification and is already taking steps to fight it.

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