Local lawmakers weigh in on actions in Iran

January 9, 2020
In The News

While the area’s Republican legislators applauded President Donald Trump’s use of force in the Middle East, another Senator questions the imminent threat posed by the slain Iranian general.

“I don’t think we escalated anything,” said Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer. “We responded to attacks on Americans and American interests.”

The president’s response was “measured,” as he took advice from military and his administration, said Keller.

Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani worked to orchestrate terrorism around the world, including the storming of the United States’ Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

The economic sanctions instituted on Iran “are making sure we’re not

transferring our wealth” to a state which has actively worked against the United States since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he said.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard, who also was briefed on the situation Wednesday, said Soleimani was a terrorist responsible for hundreds of U.S. casualties.

“I appreciate the administration communicating their strategy with Congress and believe we are well prepared to address any potential aggressions from Iran moving forward,” he said.

Senators Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, both held conference calls Wednesday afternoon following their classified briefing by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel, and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

The senators arrived at different conclusions — Toomey said he considered Iran a “dangerous pariah state,” and lauded the president’s forthright action, while Casey moved to legislatively limit his unilateral approach.

The briefing covered a range of topics, said Casey, “but I need to hear a lot more about the details, meaning the intelligence that undergirded the decision” to kill the Iranian general.

Some legislators felt as though their questions were not answered and they were not given clear answers to what imminent danger Soleimani had posed, he added.

Casey announced Wednesday he is co-sponsoring the Kaine Resolution, which would require that any hostilities with Iran be authorized by a declaration of war for the use of military force, but would not prevent the United States from defending itself.

The resolution calls attention to the fact that past presidents have been allowed to pursue wars without directly consulting congress.

“The fact that we have not had a robust, sustained and substantial debate on military force since 2002 is not the fault of one congress or one president, it is a bipartisan failure and we are far overdue for having senators and representatives vote on the grave prospect of war,” he said.

Casey said he thinks Trump is being led by others in his administration, which has led to a lack of a clearly identifiable strategy, and “rhetoric… is not strategy.”

“The reason I’m pressing so hard is because we live in a country where people were lied to about Vietnam and Iraq,” he said. “There were times in our nation’s history where Congress asserted its authority that it’s the branch of government to declare war — I think we need to get back to that.”

Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and increased tensions vastly expedited the state’s work to acquire the weapons, with many analysts estimating them to successfully gain nuclear capability in six months to a year, he said.

Casey said, while he works to expedite the passage of the Kaine Resolution, he hopes Trump goes back to “robust, aggressive, tough diplomacy,” rather than boasting about the United States’ military prowess.

Contrarily, Toomey cited Soleimani’s role in bombing tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, shooting down military drones, attacking Saudi oil facilities and killing an American contractor in the weeks and months before his death as evidence of a depravity worth exterminating.

Additionally, the Trump administration knew of plans to harm many Americans, “and the timeframe was very, very soon,” he said.

It was necessary to show Iran that, “If you kill an American, very bad consequences will follow,” he said.

“I called the president and congratulated him on showing restraint,” said Toomey. “The president did not want any military action.”

Instead, the sanctions, more of which were put into place yesterday, reduced the Iranian economy by 10 percent in 2019, and researchers believe it will be reduced by even more this year, he said.

The strategy is clear, said Toomey: Deter Iran from attacking Americans or American interests, and implementing an “articulated campaign of maximum economic pressure.”

This should either bring about a policy or regime change in Iran, he said.

For the Kaine Solution, Toomey said, “I can tell you that the most important elements are very troubling to me. I think a fair interpretation of this resolution is that it could easily require a full withdrawal of Iraq.”

The last time the United States forces withdrew, it allowed for radical Islamic forces to grow, he said.

“The President does not need the authorization of Congress to protect Americans,” he said. “No one is suggesting war, but, if we were, that would certainly require consent — but that’s not what we’re talking about.”

In general however, the death of Soleimani has bought the United States some time, he said.

“I would not say that this means it’s impossible for Iran to carry out the attacks they were planning,” he said. But, “it’s much more difficult for them. At least with this administration, they know there will be very serious consequences.”