The U.S. airstrike which killed the Iranian regime’s top military general, Qassim Soleimani (also Qassem Soleimani), late Thursday has divided Congress largely along party lines, with reactions both praising and condemning the actions of President Donald Trump, who authorized the strike.
The Department of Defense confirmed late Thursday that Soleimani was killed “at the direction of the President.”
Under Trump’s authorization, “…the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the department said in a statement.
The department said that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
“Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter. “His demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice.”
“Proud of President Trump for doing the strong and right thing,” she wrote.
Republican lawmakers praised Trump for the airstrike, saying he had brought justice to U.S. military families.
Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands. His demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice. Proud of President Trump for doing the strong and right thing. @realDonaldTrump 🇺🇸
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) January 3, 2020
Sen.Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Soleimani’s death “presents an opportunity for Iraq to determine its own future free from Iranian control.”
“As I have previously warned the Iranian government, they should not mistake our reasonable restraint in response to their previous attacks as weakness.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “I appreciate President Trump’s bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was quick to condemn the strike, warning that tensions between the United States and Iran could spiral out of control.
“Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America—and the world—cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return,” Pelosi said, adding that the strikes were conducted without the consultation of the Congress.
“The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran,” she added.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that while Soleimani was “an enemy of the United States,” the killing could put more Americans at risk.
“One reason we don’t generally (assassinate) foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed,” Murphy said on Twitter. “That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight.”
Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) described the move as a “reckless” one which “escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”
“Our priority must be to avoid another costly war,” Warren added.
According to the United States, Soleimani was responsible for orchestrating attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past two months, which included the attack at the military base in northern Iraq on Dec. 27.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper told the press on Jan. 2 before the Soleimani strike that Iran’s “provocative behavior” in Iraq has been clear for all to see. “They’ve been shooting rockets, indirect fire, any type of things, attacking our bases … In the last [two months] alone, we’ve nearly a dozen attacks against U.S. forces, against our coalition partners.”
Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place earlier this week, the department said.
“This strike [at Solemaini] was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the DoD announced. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
Trump on Dec. 31 told reporters at Mar-a-Lago club in Florida that he does not want war with Iran, dismissing concerns that tensions between the two countries could spiral into war.
“Do I want to? No. I want to have peace. I like peace,” he said. “And Iran should want to have peace more than anybody. So I don’t see that happening.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly and Melanie Sun contributed to this report.