Several of the Democratic presidential candidates warned on Thursday that the United States was heading towards major escalation and perhaps even war with Iran, following the assassination of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the attack ordered by President Donald Trump and claimed that his decision was made without consulting Congress.
"Tonight's airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return," Pelosi said in a statement.
The strike was carried out without an "authorization for use of military force" against Iran, and without the consultation of Congress, the speaker said.
"The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region," Pelosi said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement saying that “no American will mourn” the death of Soleimani, who “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.”
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Biden added, however, that the assassination was “a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region.” He warned that “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 our troops safe.”
“This administration has not demonstrated at any turn the discipline or long-term vision necessary - and the stakes could not be higher,” added Biden, who is currently the leading candidate in most recent polls of the Democratic nomination battle.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is coming second in many polls, wrote on Twitter Thursday that “Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars. Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, another leading contender, wrote following the news: “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.”
Rep. Elliott Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a written statement which highlighted the need to update Congress about the situation regarding Iran. “Qassem Soleimani was the mastermind of immense violence, suffering, and instability. He had the blood of Americans on his hands and 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 wrote.
Engel added that “this 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. 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.”
On the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) congratulated Trump for Soleimani’s death and called to take even harsher action against Iran if it will retaliate. “If Iran continues to attack America and our allies, they should pay the heaviest of prices, which includes the destruction of their oil refineries,” Graham suggested.
Graham also wrote on Twitter: “To the Iranian government: If you want to stay in the oil business leave America and our allies alone and stop being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney also tweeted: "Qassem Soleimani was a depraved terrorist who had the blood of hundreds of American servicemen and women on his hands, and who was doubtlessly planning operations to further harm our citizens and allies."