MSNBC’s “First Look” host Ayman Mohyeldin on Saturday called Pence’s “deliberate, misleading” claim a “low point in American politics.” (See the video above.)
The stretch to make a link between Soleimani and the attack is likely tied to standing congressional authorization from 2001 to use force in response to 9/11 as the Trump administration works to build legitimacy for its action, noted The Washington Post.
In fact, Soleimani’s name isn’t mentioned once in the nearly 600-page 9/11 Commission report, which interviewed some 1,200 people and analyzed 2.5 million pages of documents. The report concluded that there was no evidence that “Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack.”
Pence even had the number of hijackers in the attack wrong. He insisted to back his claim that Soleimani helped “10 of the 12” terrorists travel through Iran to Afghanistan and eventually launch an attack on the U.S. There were 19 hijackers; 15 of them were Saudis. (Pence’s spokeswoman later claimed that Pence meant that 10 of the 12 of the 19 who traveled through Afghanistan were assisted by Soleimani).
“Pretty much everything in that tweet is not correct,” CNN security analyst Peter Bergen said Saturday. He called Pence’s claim a “crazy conspiracy theory that for some reason the vice president is pushing.”
If travel is the standard for 9/11 complicity, then the U.S.would have “somehow been assisting the hijackers because they all received visas to the United States,” and even overstayed them without detection, he added. “The 9/11 Commission completely dismissed” any Iranian complicity in the attacks, noted Bergen. “There were no Iranians involved” in the 9/11 attack, nor were there any Iranians in the al Qaeda terror network, which was responsible for the attack, Bergen noted.
Iran is a majority Shiite Muslim state. Saudi Arabia, home of most of the 9/11 hijackers, is a Sunni Muslim monarchy that has long had a tense relationship with Iran. Al Qaeda is also Sunni. For a time Soleimani cooperated with the U.S. government against the Taliban (who are also Sunni) in Afghanistan.
Pence’s claim “makes little sense from both a religious and political perspective,” Osamah Khalil, an associate professor of history at Syracuse University, told The Los Angeles Times.
The Washington Post reports that at the time of the future hijackers’ travel through Iran, the nation adopted a policy of not stamping visas on al Qaeda members’ passports, in part to improve relations with the organization. But not only was Iran unaware of the 9/11 plans, the al Qaeda operatives themselves probably didn’t know specific details of their future operation, the 9/11 Commission report concluded.