The Pentagon’s announcement early Friday that U.S. forces killed a high-ranking Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, drew both praise and criticism from the U.S. Congress.
Reactions poured in immediately after a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that an airstrike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq killed Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," the statement read, justifying the killing of the general who was “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more".
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican allies, who in general said his death sent a strong message to Iran, have lost no time to praise the operation.
“Wow - the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands. Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah's regime. He had American blood on his hands,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said in a series of tweets.
"Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice. America is safer now after Soleimani’s demise," Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said.
"The defensive actions the U.S. has taken against #Iran & its proxies are consistent with clear warnings they have received. They chose to ignore these warnings because they believed @POTUS was constrained from acting by our domestic political divisions. They badly miscalculated," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said.
Trump's move was praised even by his critics in the Republican aisles.
"This is very simple: General Soleimani is dead because he was an evil b*stard who murdered Americans. The President made the brave and right call, and Americans should be proud of our servicemembers who got the job done," Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said in a statement.
The airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militant group, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
However, some Democrats who said the assassination could further destabilize the region at the expense of U.S. troops stationed round the Middle East, were not as jubilant as the GOP figures.
"Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars. Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one," said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the frontrunners for Democratic Party nomination for U.S. presidency, on Twitter.
In another tweet, he said when he voted against the Iraq War in 2002, he "feared it would lead to greater destabilization of the region. That fear unfortunately turned out to be true".
"The U.S. has lost approximately 4,500 brave troops, tens of thousands have been wounded, and we’ve spent trillions," Sanders added.
Another Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has also criticized the Trump administration, saying that it is a "hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region."
He added that Trump has "just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox" and the U.S. "could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East."
Elizabeth Warren, another candidate for president of the U.S. said "Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans."
But, she added, "this reckless move 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."
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico said it might have unintended consequences and could put "U.S. forces and citizens in danger and very possibly sinking us into another disastrous war in the Middle East that the American people are not asking for and do not support."
"I urge members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to show courage on this issue, and I urge the Trump administration to change course and pursue diplomacy before we are entangled in yet another war in the Middle East with no end in sight," his statement read.
Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, a war veteran, said Soleimani was "was an enemy of the United States with American blood on his hands".
"But the question we’ve grappled with for years in Iraq was how to kill more terrorists than we create. That’s an open question tonight as we await Iran’s reaction to Donald Trump’s escalation, wich could ignite a regional war, with still no strategy from the Administration," he added.
Some Democrats claimed the U.S. president did not have the legal authority to order the strike without congressional approval.
"Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question," Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeted. "The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?"
His criticism was immediately pushed back by Trump's aides.
"Gen. Soleimani has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans, and was actively plotting more. This commander-in-chief — any C-in-C. — has an obligation to defend America by killing this b*stard," Sasse said in response to Murphy.
Despite some Democratic pushback, Pentagon said the U.S. "will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."
Shortly after the reports on the slain military leaders, Trump posted the U.S. flag on Twitter with no comment.
Soleimani was the long-time commander of the Quds Forces, which has been a designated terror group in the U.S. since 2007. The group is estimated to have 20,000 members.
The attack came amid Iranian tensions with the U.S. after thousands of Iraqis stormed the U.S. embassy compound on Tuesday, protesting against airstrikes Sunday in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia which killed at least 25 fighters.
The airstrikes were in response to a rocket attack Friday on a U.S. military base in Kirkuk blamed on Kataib Hezbollah, which is part of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi group. Friday's attack killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.
The U.S. has accused the Iranian general of managing Tehran’s proxy forces in the Middle East as well as holding him responsible for several attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.
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