Antony Blinken, President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s pick to lead the Department of State, said Tuesday said that the January 2020 killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani left the U.S. “less safe.”
The U.S. killed Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq, prompting Iran to retaliate by firing missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the time questioned the legal justification for the strike and maintained that the threat Soleimani posed was not “imminent,” though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sharply rejected such speculation.
But during his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Blinken told the panel that “the question is not whether taking him out was the right thing to do, it was gaming out what might be the consequences.”
Mr. Blinken, 58, said that “no one is shedding a tear” for the death of the Iranian general, but killing him “left us less safe.”
If confirmed, Mr. Blinken, who formerly served as the deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration as well as a Democratic aide to the Senate panel, will inherit a host of policy challenges on Iran from its rising nuclear power to military and diplomatic tensions.
“We have an urgent responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent Iran from acquiring or getting a weapon,” he told the panel.
Mr. Blinken has seen support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and the Senate is expected to hold a vote to confirm his nomination next week.