Gen. Qassem Soleimani's killing was reportedly in the works since June.
As other sources have reported, President Trump had been given several options for acting against Iran, ranging from the relatively delicate to the most extreme. Killing Soleimani was on the latter end of that spectrum, but Trump still went with it — provided an American was killed first, five current and former senior officials tell NBC News.
The Soleimani decision reportedly started back in June, when Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz. John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser at the time, pushed for the harsh response of killing Soleimani, as did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, officials said. Trump turned them down, but did say "that's only on the table if they hit Americans," a person briefed on the discussion told NBC News. That option became valid when an Iranian proxy attack killed a U.S. contractor and wounded U.S. servicemembers.
This report is also backed up by a comment from Vice President Mike Pence at a Trump rally last week. "When one American life was lost at the hands of Iranian-backed militias just a few short weeks ago, President Trump launched the first air strikes against Iranian-backed militias in 10 years," Pence said to explain the rationale behind the Soleimani strike.