Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani helped oversee Iran’s policy of state-sponsored terrorism that killed and injured thousands of people in the Mideast, and his death from a U.S drone strike early Friday was justified — and long overdue, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes said Friday.
But U.S. Rep. Jim Costa said other Americans may now be in “grave danger” after President Donald Trump authorized the general’s death.
And U.S. Rep. TJ Cox said the president must consult with Congress before taking any further action in the Middle East, where tensions are ratcheting ever higher.
Perhaps not surprisingly, support or opposition for Trump’s decision fell along party lines.
Praise or Pan? It’s Political
Nunes, R-Tulare — a longtime Trump supporter and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee — said in an interview on KMJ Radio that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force that Soleimani commanded had moved explosive devices to Iraq during the Gulf War and was responsible for “probably two-thirds” of the U.S. military casualties there. Nunes did not respond to an interview request from GV Wire.
Nunes criticized Democrats for not supporting the president’s decision to kill Soleimani, with some terming it an “assassination.”
“The fact that the Democrats would not be out there saying, thank God — No. 1, thank God this guy is gone. No. 2, Iran better not do anything more or we will strike you again,” Nunes said. “I mean, this guy got away with this for way too long.”
‘Enemy of the United States’
Costa, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that Soleimani was correctly characterized as a terrorist who was responsible for many deaths and other casualties around the world. “He was an enemy of the United States … who deserved to be brought to justice,” said Costa, D-Fresno.
But Trump’s decision was made unilaterally without the advance knowledge of U.S. allies in the Mideast and Europe, and apparently without thought for long-term diplomatic solutions, Costa said.
“Our priority is to protect the lives of Americans, many of who are now in grave danger from this action by the President,” Costa said.
Congress Must Not Be Bypassed
Cox said partisan politics are not the issue. The Trump administration has thus far not provided Congress with either clear objectives or alternatives to an escalation of military force, which also weren’t provided the last time America was “drawn into an unending war,” the Fresno Democrat said in a statement.
He noted that sailors from Lemoore Naval Air Station and other military personnel from the Valley could wind up on the front lines of combat.
“For their safety and for the safety of all Americans, Congress must authorize the use of force when a president brings us to the brink of war,” Cox said. “The president has no option but to consult Congress before he takes any other actions, because we must de-escalate before this becomes a full-blown war.”
Analysis of US Killing of Soleimani
Retired FBI agent and Middle East legal attaché Tom Knowles of Fresno said that the U.S. killing of Soleimani, 62, was an appropriate response by the Trump administration — if the intelligence that said Soleimani planned to kill Americans was correct.
“We, as citizens, have to believe our intelligence is accurate,” Knowles said. “If it’s true, this was the appropriate message to send. It’s a message that says to Iran and anyone filling (Soleimani’s) position that they would have to think twice about attacking us.”
However, Knowles warned that it would be a mistake to underestimate “the influence and sphere” of the Iranian government in the Middle East.
“From the counter-terrorism side, there’s always been a big concern about a direct confrontation with Iran because of the reach of Hezbollah and the number of sleeper Hezbollah members around the world,” he said. “The unknown question is whether those sleeper members who continue to financially and mentally support Hezbollah would, if ordered, engage locally (in terrorism).”
More Troops Heading to Mideast
Thousands of additional U.S. troops are heading to the Mideast after Soleimani, 62, and nine others were killed Friday morning in an attack on his convoy at the Baghdad International Airport.
Soleimani was commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and described as among the most important leaders of Iran, second only to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The U.S. Department of Defense said Soleimani was killed because he was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the Mideast region. He also was responsible for a Dec. 27 rocket attack at a coalition base in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded other Americans and Iraqis and for the attack earlier this week on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Defense Department said.
Americans Told to Leave Iraq
The embassy, which was closed after the attack, on Friday urged all American citizens to depart Iraq immediately.
Meanwhile, the head of the Washington, D.C.-based National Iranian American Council said Soleimani’s killing is an “assassination” that puts the region, and the world, at even greater risk of violence.
Hardliners in Tehran will see it as an act of war and argue forcefully for Iran to respond with violence, NIAC President Jamal Abdi said. While acknowledging that Soleimani bore responsibility for many deaths — he was accused of supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel and Houthi rebels in Yemen — “yet that is neither an authorization for a war nor a just cause for starting one,” Abdi said in a statement.