News & Politics

Buttigieg Says Soleimani 'Was Not a Good Guy' But Killing Him Was an 'Extremely Provocative Act'

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign rally, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democratic White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg said on Friday that Senior Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani was dangerous but disagreed with President Trump’s decision to authorize the airstrike that killed him.

“Qasem Soleimani was not a good guy. He has blood on his hands from countless operations against American interests, American allies, and American citizens,” Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., told voters during a campaign event in New Hampshire. “Taking out a bad guy is not a good idea unless you are ready for what comes next.”

Buttigieg referred to the airstrike as an “extremely provocative act” that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama decided against. He questioned whether the decision to authorize the airstrike was made “carelessly” or “strategically” and if there has been “any preparation for the secondary effects” of the attack.

“As a military intelligence officer on the ground in Afghanistan, I was trained to ask these questions before a decision is made and I know right now across the country a lot of families with members of the military are going to be holding each other a little more tightly wondering what this might mean,” he said.

Buttigieg added that “one thing” he’s “certain of right now” is that the U.S. must not allow this airstrike to be the “beginning of another endless war” in the Middle East.

Other Democratic presidential candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden also criticized Trump’s decision to order the strike in Baghdad.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called Soleimani “the mastermind of immense violence, suffering, and instability” who has “the blood of Americans on his hands.”

“I won’t grieve his death. But many will consider him a martyr and I’m deeply concerned about the repercussions of tonight’s strike,” Engel said in a statement.

Engel referred to Iran as “the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism.”

“The regime in Tehran and its proxies have global reach that they may use to seek retribution for this strike, endangering the lives of Americans around the world. And we are now again on the brink of direct confrontation in the Middle East. Tonight’s action represents a massive escalation in our conflict with Iran with unpredictable consequences,” he said.

Engel lamented that the strike “went forward with no notification or consultation with Congress.”

“To push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress’s powers as a coequal branch of government. Even if this strike was in self-defense, no current congressional authorization covered it and the president needs to notify Congress within 48 hours pursuant to the War Powers Resolution,” Engel said.

“The law requires notification so the president can’t plunge the United States into ill-considered wars. We must also hear without delay from senior officials about this action and their plans to deal with the aftermath,” he added.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Id.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded Trump’s “decisive action” by authorizing the airstrike.

“Qassem Suleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and his 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. The U.S. will always vigorously defend our interests and allies in the face of terrorist conduct and provocations,” Risch said in a statement.

“On behalf of every American serviceman and servicewoman who has either been killed or injured due to an Iranian-provided IED or rocket in Iraq over the years, today justice was done. Suleimani was responsible for the weapons program that caused those casualties and injuries with the use of those treacherous and cowardly devices,” he added.