After President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian terrorist thug Qasem Soleimani on Thursday, 2020 Democrats rushed to condemn the president’s order, describing it as “reckless” and blaming Trump for making Iran more dangerous.
“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I’m not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”
“I hope the Administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen,” Biden, the frontrunner in national polls, added. “But I fear this Administration has not demonstrated at any turn the discipline or long-term vision necessary — and the stakes could not be higher.”
While Biden attacked Trump for tossing “a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” he admitted that “no American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos.” Yet the former vice president still faulted Trump for “a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region.”
My statement on the killing of Qassem Soleimani. pic.twitter.com/4Q9tlLAYFB
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 3, 2020
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also condemned the airstrike.
“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict,” she tweeted Thursday. “Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But 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.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 3, 2020
Other candidates were less measured.
“We have a president who has failed to show any larger strategic plan,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told CNN on Thursday night. “Under his leadership, with his so-called maximum force, Iran has become a more dangerous, more influential regime in that region, whether it is undermining our efforts in Iraq, whether it is making Syria less stable and allies of Israel less secure, whether it is arming Hezbollah, even a bipartisan effort we did for a rebuke on what we were doing in regards to Yemen, which was a proxy war between the Saudis and the Iranians.”
“We see in international shipping channels what Iran is doing, so this has been a deteriorating situation, a president that does not have a clear-eyed larger strategy to not only bring stability to that area but to make Americans more safe,” Booker added.
We have a president who has no strategic plan when it comes to Iran and has only made that region less stable and less safe. More thoughts: pic.twitter.com/Cn25X4kOhQ
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 3, 2020
“War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people,” businessman Andrew Yang wrote on Twitter. “We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”
War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) January 3, 2020
Marianne Williamson also chimed in. “Prayers for peace. Killing of Qasem Solemani [sic] by US military was one of the most reckless irresponsible actions ever directed by a US President,” she tweeted. “Congress deserves condemnation for allowing it (NDAA) and Americans need to understand this: War with Iran would be totally disastrous.”
Prayers for peace. Killing of Qasem Solemani by US military was one of the most reckless irresponsible actions ever directed by a US President. Congress deserves condemnation for allowing it (NDAA) and Americans need to understand this: War with Iran would be totally disastrous.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) January 3, 2020
Yet President Donald Trump’s order did not come in a vacuum. The Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah began escalating tensions with a rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base on December 27. That attack killed a U.S. contractor and left many American and Iraqi personnel wounded. According to the Pentagon, Soleimani ordered that attack.
In response, America launched airstrikes against the militia, killing 25 militiamen. In retaliation, the militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, invading American soil. The Pentagon claimed that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.”
Killing Soleimani is a powerful response to the embassy attack, an attack that arguably constitutes an act of war, especially if it was orchestrated by Soleimani, who was effectively Iran’s second-highest military commander.
According to the Pentagon, “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
Pentagon sources told Newsweek‘s James LaPorta that Trump authorized the airstrike under 10 U.S. Code section 127e, support of special operations to combat terrorism.
The American people would prefer for Trump to avoid war with Iran, but when Iran-backed militias invade a U.S. embassy, they are the aggressors, not Trump. Backing down in the face of this kind of attack would reveal the U.S. as weak and unwilling to defend itself.
Iran may not respond with war. After all, the mullahs cannot hope to defeat the U.S. military without foreign assistance, and it seems unlikely Russia will intervene, especially when Iran has been the aggressor. Trump’s show of strength may even prevent war, as it demonstrates America’s resolve.
In any case, it is too early to know for certain whether the president’s action was “reckless.” If the Pentagon is correct that Soleimani orchestrated the embassy attack, Trump’s response seems proportionate.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.