ST. PAUL — Democratic lawmakers in the region said the Trump administration's move to kill a top Iranian military commander came without congressional approval and could stem deadly conflict in the Middle East.
The reactions come hours after the U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday, Jan. 2, confirmed that it launched an airstrike on the Baghdad International Airport that killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force along with other Iranian and Iraqi officials. The Quds Force is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The airstrike came days after an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and after Tehran earlier this year seized several oil tankers and shot down a U.S. drone aircraft.
The U.S. Department of Defense said it directed U.S. military forces to kill Soleimani in an effort to defend U.S. personnel abroad. Trump directed the action, a statement from the department said.
And the U.S. State Department on Friday urged Americans in Iraq to depart immediately due to increased tensions there. In response to the attack, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. would face "harsh retaliation."
Trump aimed to clarify his intentions behind the strike Friday morning, noting on Twitter that Soleimani has been involved in the deaths of "thousands of Americans over an extended period of time." The Republican president in his tweets also said that the Iranian general "should have been taken out many years ago!"
General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
Lawmakers along with foreign policy experts split over the action and the potential consequences that could follow. In the hours following the airstrike, Republican legislators deemed the takedown of the Iranian general a success, while Democrats raised concerns about what the move could provoke moving forward.
"Qassem Soleimani was responsible for directing Iran's destabilizing actions in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Middle East, including against U.S. forces. But the timing, manner and potential consequences of the administration's actions raise serious questions and concerns about an escalating conflict," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a news release. "Our immediate focus needs to be on ensuring all necessary security measures are taken to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq and throughout the region."
And those efforts by the administration should be taken in consultation with members of Congress, Klobuchar and other Democrats said. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, in a news release said the president hadn't consulted Congress prior to authorizing the use of military force.
A staunch opponent of the president's — Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN05 — in a tweet Thursday, said the move to stir tension in the region could provoke war, and in turn, distract from other issues Trump faces at home.
"Real question is, will those with congressional authority step in and stop him?" Omar wrote. "I know I will."
Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, supported the Trump administration's actions and said they were needed to stave off violent acts against Americans orchestrated by Soleimani or others in the region.
“General Soleimani was a terrorist, having ordered several attacks on Americans and actively planning more," U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in a news release. "This action sends a clear message that we will defend our own against such evil acts. Congratulations to the brave service members who successfully executed this mission. The world is a safer place because of them.”
Other Republicans in the region offered their approval of Trump's decision or didn't immediately offer public reaction to the news Friday.
"While I look forward to hearing more from the administration about this mission and what information led to this action, the world is a better place without Soleimani," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said in a statement. "With his removal, Iran has the opportunity to change course, but if its leaders continue to sow discord and undermine security throughout the region, the United States and our allies should continue to stand resolutely against their effort.”
Other lawmakers weigh in on the attack
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
“General Soleimani was a terrorist responsible for the deaths of many Americans, and was planning additional attacks on U.S. interests," Hoeven said. "Our brave U.S. service members and intelligence officials have once again brought a terrorist to justice. Iran’s terrorist activities and its nuclear program are unacceptable, and the U.S. will continue to defend its interests and its people.”
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.
"Iran continues to threaten American citizens, service members and partners," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said. "Yesterday’s airstrike against Qassem Soleimani was a necessary action designed to protect Americans from anticipated attacks that he was directly involved in planning. This decisive action was intended to preemptively stop further attacks and let Iran know that threats to Americans will not be tolerated."
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.
"The question isn't whether he deserved to be targeted," Smith said. "The question is whether eliminating him makes us safer and if the Trump administration has fully considered the serious consequences of this operation. I’m gravely concerned that the administration doesn’t have a long-term strategy to stop further escalation."
Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-MN01
"America and the world are safer with the elimination of Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was a known terrorist whose very existence was a threat to U.S. troops and Syrian civilians," Hagedorn said. "I applaud President Trump for his decisiveness and for demonstrating that no attack on Americans will be tolerated, and I thank our courageous military members who carried out this mission swiftly and effectively."
Rep. Angie Craig, D-MN02
"Soleimani was an evil man, responsible for the deaths of thousands. But last night’s pre-emptive airstrike on Soleimani has significantly escalated the tensions with Iran, putting the safety of American service members, diplomats and others at risk," Craig said. "Any further acts of aggression against Iran require a new AUMF from Congress. It is imperative that we work with our allies to deescalate the situation – our highest priority must be avoiding another costly war in the Middle East that will cost American lives."
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-MN04
“President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani inside Iraq will have severely negative consequences on U.S. interests around the world and puts a target on every American – military and civilian – in the region," McCollum said. "Further, it strengthens the Iranian regime’s domestic hold on power and empowers Iranian-backed elements in Iraq to create more chaos. Americans now know that 17 years of war in Iraq was based on a manufactured lie touted as ‘credible intelligence,’ and I fear that President Trump is creating his own rationale for war with Iran.”
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.
"Earlier this week because of decisive action on the part of our president and our men and women in uniform, General Soleimani was killed," Johnson said. "He was a terrorist mastermind and was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Our world is a better place today because he's not in it."