Democrats in Washington’s congressional delegation condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a powerful Iranian military commander at an Iraqi airport early Friday, warning it could lead to another war in the Middle East.
Washington Republicans, meanwhile, praised Trump for killing a leader who has helped fuel terrorism and attacks on Americans throughout the region.
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for more than two decades, was killed by an American drone strike at Baghdad International Airport, and the Pentagon announced an additional 3,500 troops would head to the region.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray noted that Congress was not briefed before the attack and called on Trump to provide the legal justification for the killing.
“While I agree wholeheartedly that [Qassem] Soleimani was an enemy of the United States, I am gravely concerned this President’s escalatory actions jeopardize American servicemembers, allies, and interests and could put us on a path to deeper, sustained engagement — once again without a strategy or clearly defined objectives,” Murray said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell said the president needs to brief Congress.
“No one wants to see an escalation with Iran,” Cantwell said. “The President needs a strategy that involves working with our allies to find a diplomatic solution for the region.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, was most scathing in her condemnation, calling Soleimani’s killing an unconstitutional assassination.
Said Jayapal, “It should be clear that the Trump Administration’s approach to Iran has been nothing short of a disaster: withdrawing from the Iran Deal and launching a harmful ‘maximum pressure’ campaign has unraveled decades of diplomacy and alienated us from our allies. With the latest airstrike, we may well be at the brink of war.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had grave concerns about the events that led up to the strike and called on the administration to spell out how the killing protects U.S. interests.
“Rather than calming the strained tensions in the region, this action will only accelerate the cycle of violent escalation,” Smith said.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said Trump had shared no evidence justifying the attack.
“The administration can try to make the argument there was some imminent threat that warranted the airstrikes, but it has shared no evidence with Congress, has ratcheted up tensions with Iran, and done so without any legal authority that I can find,” Larsen said. “In three years of this administration, Middle East policy has gone from having an international nuclear deal with Iran that had stopped Iran from developing nuclear weapons to now, what some call the brink of war.”
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, said the strike puts troops and diplomats in danger.
“We cannot allow the United States to be drawn into another conflict in the Middle East without a thorough debate and vote in Congress on a new Authorization of Use of Military Force.”
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said Trump has no clear strategy with regard to Iran.
“There can be and should be no military escalation without either a formal declaration of war or a specific congressional authorization for use of military force against Iran,” Heck said.
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, was more most modest in his criticism of the president.
Soleimani, said Kilmer, “fueled instability in the Middle East and served as a threat to the security of the United States, its allies, and the entire world,” he said. “That said, actions in the Middle East need to be tied to a clear strategy … The American people don’t want — and Congress has not authorized — another war in the Middle East.”
Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, did not criticize Trump but called for Congress to be briefed.
“Managing the multiple threats posed by Iran and its proxies requires diplomatic finesse, coordination with our allies, and an appreciation for unintended consequences,” Schrier said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, echoed the language Trump used in a short speech Friday afternoon, saying the killing was a “defensive action against imminent threats.” She did not respond when asked for details on those threats.
“President Trump’s action sends an important message to those who wish to do us harm,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I support our Commander in Chief. I encourage the administration to engage with Congress on this moving forward so we can be strategic in avoiding escalation and in protecting American lives and American interests.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, praised Trump for acting decisively and said Soleimani’s death “signifies American strength against his threats, attacks and acts of global terrorism.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, did not respond to requests for comment.