Democratic leaders are fuming that President Trump authorized the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force and a major figure in the ruling Iranian regime, without consulting Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the Trump administration to provide further details on the Thursday-night airstrike, saying the decision was made without an "authorization for use of military force" or “the consultation of Congress.”
“Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night shortly after the news of the killing was made public. “America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”
High-profile Republicans, meanwhile, stayed in lockstep with the Trump administration and celebrated the assassination.
“The end of Qasem Soleimani is welcome and long-overdue justice for the thousands of Americans killed or wounded by his Iranian-controlled forces across the Middle East, and for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqi Sunnis ethnically cleansed by his militia,” tweeted GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Trump himself tweeted on Friday that “Soleimani should have been taken out many years ago!”
The U.S. killed Soleimani and three prominent members of an Iran-aligned Iraqi militia with a drone strike of a convoy on Thursday. Among the dead was Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group that commands Shiite Iraqi militias that are mostly aligned with Iran.
The killings are, without question, a major escalation between the U.S. and Iran. Soleimani was revered by Iranian hardliners and was behind nearly every operation conducted by Iranian intelligence and military forces for the last 20 years.
“Tonight, [Soleimani] got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice,” said Republican Sen. Tom Cotton in a statement. “America is safer now after Soleimani’s demise.”
Critics on the campaign trail
Democrats on the campaign trail criticized the president and warned killing Soleimani risks full-on war with Iran that would play out across the Middle East.
“I was right about Vietnam. I was right about Iraq,” tweeted Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. “I will do everything in my power to prevent a war with Iran. I apologize to no one.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, said Trump might not realize what he has done.
“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," Biden said in a statement. "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."
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 Dem, called the killing “reckless.”
“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” she tweeted. “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.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, praised Trump’s “decisive, preemptive action” and threatened Iran with more violence.
“To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more,” he tweeted.
But not every Republican supported the president. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a critic of foreign entanglements who argues presidents must come to Congress for authorization to use force abroad, criticized the move.
“The question today is whether the assassination of Soleimani will expand the war to endanger the lives of every American soldier or diplomat in the Middle East?” he tweeted. “Our young men and women in the armed services deserve better.”
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a campaign event at NOAH's Events Venue on December 30, 2019 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Cover: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, December 19, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)