Why Trump chose this moment to explore an operation against the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, after tolerating Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf for months, was a matter of debate within his own administration. Officials gave differing and incomplete accounts of the intelligence they said prompted Trump to act. Some said they were stunned by his decision, which could lead to war with one of America’s oldest adversaries in the Middle East.

“It was tremendously bold and even surprised many of us,” said a senior administration official with knowledge of high-level discussions among Trump and his advisers, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations…

Some analysts were skeptical about the need to kill Soleimani.

“There may well have been an ongoing plot as Pompeo claims, but Soleimani was a decision-maker, not an operational asset himself,” said Jon Bateman, who served as a senior intelligence analyst on Iran at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Killing him would be neither necessary nor sufficient to disrupt the operational progression of an imminent plot. What it might do instead is shock Iran’s decision calculus” and deter future attack plans, Bateman said.