World News

U.S. House committee sets Iran hearing, invites Pompeo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Tuesday it had called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify on Iran next week, as members of Congress push President Donald Trump’s administration for more information about the killing of a top Iranian military commander.

Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that the panel would hold a hearing on Jan. 14 and had called Pompeo to testify, along with a panel of experts on Iran policy.

“The American people have serious questions about the real reasons behind last week’s strike and the planned path forward,” Engel said in a statement.

There was no immediate response from the State Department on whether Pompeo would agree to testify publicly.

“At the moment, Secretary Pompeo has only been invited to appear,” a committee aide said. “We expect he’d welcome the opportunity to defend the administration’s Iran policy to the American people.”

Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Iraq last week, plunging the Middle East into a new crisis and sparking fears of a wider war.

In Washington, Trump administration officials warned the public about possible reprisals from Iran, and Democratic lawmakers – with a few of Trump’s fellow Republicans – have sought more information about what threat Soleimani may have posed to the United States and the administration’s Iran strategy.

The Democratic-led House is also expected to vote this week on legislation to keep Trump from starting a military campaign against Iran without first obtaining Congress’ approval.

Trump broke with precedent by failing to inform congressional leaders about the strike against Soleimani before it took place and by making all of a formal report to Congress after the fact confidential.

Pompeo is among top administration officials who will conduct closed-door, classified briefings on Iran policy for the House and Senate on Wednesday.

U.S. officials have said Soleimani was killed because of solid intelligence indicating forces under his command planned attacks on U.S. targets in the region, although they have provided no evidence.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)