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Lawmakers split along party lines over killing of Iranian general

By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 8, 2020

WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers who came out of a closed-door briefing Wednesday with national security officials said they heard no evidence of an "imminent threat" that justified the killing last week of Iran's top general by a U.S. airstrike.

"It's not what I consider to be an imminent threat," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a group of reporters.

"I was deeply surprised at the lack of information" presented of an imminent threat, said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is also on the committee.

Democratic lawmakers largely agreed the briefing was too short and lacked important information and had vague justification for the Jan. 3 drone strike in Baghdad that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force and a chief adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

“[The briefing] raised more questions than it answered,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters after the meeting.

Shortly after the national security officials briefed lawmakers, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House will vote Thursday on a resolution to rein in President Donald Trump’s war powers against Iran.

However, Republican lawmakers came out of the briefing in support of Trump's decision to kill the Iranian general and the president’s restraint after Iran’s missile attack Tuesday against Iraqi military bases that housed American troops.

“The guy is a designated terrorist, I find this whole idea that the national security team didn’t have a good reason to hit this guy is ridiculous,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s top allies in the Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also told reporters that Soleimani presented a “clear” and “ongoing threat” against the United States.

Democrats have argued Trump was acting outside his constitutional powers when he authorized the attack on Soleimani without consulting Congress. However, Republicans dispute Trump needs to consult Congress for limited and targeted engagements.

"That is silly," Rubio said of re-examining Trump’s power to attack Iranian targets under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which allows the president to go after anyone associated with the execution of the 9/11 attacks. "It is ridiculous."

Rubio said there's no need for a new war powers measure because Trump is “not planning an invasion.”

While Republican lawmakers applauded Trump’s efforts against Iran, many of them stopped short of backing further military action. However, Graham said he thinks the United States should increase its troop presence in the Middle East, even after the 82nd Airborne’s recent deployment to the region.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stopped short of calling for further military escalation and was skittish with the idea of yet another war in the Middle East. He said Trump should seek approved war powers from Congress if a conflict erupts.

"I am very skeptical of overseas intervention. It is not the mission of our military to engage in nation building or turn Iran or any other Middle East nation into a democratic utopia," Cruz said. "I believe in the robust role of Congress, if we enter a situation where the administration were calling for a prolonged military engagement and active war fighting against Iran, I believe the administration should come to Congress and get authorization for that."


beynon.steven@stripes.com
@StevenBeynon

 

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