US President Donald Trump referred to the plot in justifying the killing of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani in an air strike in Baghdad.
While Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he agreed with Mr Trump that additional attacks against US embassies were likely, he told CBS that the president’s remarks to Fox News were not based on specific evidence on an attack on four embassies.
“What the president said was that there probably could be additional attacks against embassies. I shared that view,” Mr Esper said on Sunday. “The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence.”
When pressed on whether intelligence officers offered concrete evidence on that point he said “I didn’t see one with regards to four embassies”.
White House officials have claimed Mr Soleimani was targeted because of an imminent risk of attacks on American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.
Mr Trump said on Friday Iran probably had targeted the US embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack four US embassies before Mr Soleimani was killed in an American drone strike on January 3.
NEWS: @EsperDod tells @margbrennan he "didn't see" specific evidence showing Iran planned to strike 4 U.S. embassies, despite @realDonaldTrump saying an attack at multiple embassies was “imminent." Watch more of Esper's interview on @FacetheNation today. pic.twitter.com/1Nud8waok1
“We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Mr Trump said in a clip of an interview on Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”
Mr Esper said in a separate interview on CNN that the administration had “exquisite intelligence” that a broader attack against multiple embassies was likely.
However that information could only be shared with the “Gang of Eight”, a group of top congressional leaders who get briefed on sensitive information that the rest of Congress does not have access to.