For Pompeo, whose political ambitions are a source of constant speculation, the death of U.S. diplomats would be particularly damaging given his unyielding criticisms of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton following the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other American personnel in Benghazi in 2012.

But none of those considerations stopped Pompeo from pushing for the targeted strike, U.S. officials said, underscoring a fixation on Iran that spans 10 years of government service from Congress to the CIA to the State Department.

“We took a bad guy off the battlefield. We made the right decision,” Pompeo told CNN. “I’m proud of the effort that President Trump undertook.”

Pompeo first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago, said a senior U.S. official, but neither the president nor Pentagon officials were willing to countenance such an operation.