Over the weekend, U.S. foreign policy scrambled to recover from the fatal attack on Iran's General Qassem Soleimani, the head of an elite military wing active in Iraq, Syria, and other hot spots. The U.S. has interests in all those places.
The Trump administration said it was acting to save American lives.
Senator Gary Peters is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and also serves on the Armed Services Committee. He's also a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
He spoke to Stateside Monday about President Trump’s decision to attack Soleimani.
“Surely Soleimani was a bad actor. I don’t think there’s any disagreement with that fact,” Peters said. “He has blood on his hands and is responsible for the killing of many American men and women, service members, but certainly this represents an escalation in what we have seen happen in the Middle East.”
Peters said the outstanding question right now is, was the president acting on an imminent threat as he’s claimed?
“I don’t have information related to that, we have not been briefed according to that, however, a briefing will be given to members of the Armed Services Committee and other senators later this week in a classified setting and I think we all come with some questions as to why this happened and, more importantly, what is the long-term strategic consequences of this, how was that thought out, and what sort of long-term strategy do we have in dealing with Iraq?” he said.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) has introduced a War Powers Resolution that would stop any further action until Congress gets on board – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will vote on a similar resolution soon. Peters said if the Senate voted today, it would be difficult to pass the resolution, given the fact that Republican senators are in the majority. He also says Congress needs to reassert itself as the branch of government that has the power to declare war.
Peters said that de-escalation is an important next step, and that discussions need to take place.
“There are no diplomatic channels that seem to be open. That should be happening even if you have to go through a third party. You have to have folks talking to each other. What we’re seeing instead is escalation of the rhetoric from both sides, both from President Trump, as well as the Iranian leaders. And the rhetoric could be potentially very dangerous and I’m very concerned about that.”