GREEN BAY – A U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general will force Iran to back down and prevent an all-out war in the Middle East, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher said Friday.
Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and members of Iran-backed militias operating in Iraq were killed early Friday at a Baghdad airport in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. Pentagon officials contend it was a defensive move following recent attacks on Americans and Iraqis, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said another attack had been “imminent.”
Soleimani was seen as an influential leader who played a significant role in Iranian military and intelligence operations over the years, including a recent two-day attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. His death is likely to add fuel to an already contentious relationship between the United States and Iran.
The airstrike prompted swift responses from proponents like Gallagher, who applauded a strong stance against Iran, and critics who worry the attack will escalate violence in the region.
Gallagher, of Green Bay, is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. In an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, he called Soleimani an “architect of chaos” in the Middle East and said the attack shows there are consequences for killing Americans. He also contends the United States can benefit from standing with allies in the region, including Israel, that are opposed to Iran’s regime.
“Everyone is united in the region around the idea that Iran is the bad guy, is the bad actor, and they welcome us pushing back,” Gallagher said.
Iranian officials warned Friday that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the United States, stoking fears that the airstrike will intensify conflicts in the Middle East.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison-area Democrat, called the president’s strike “wrong,” and said Soleimani’s death could push American forces into another protracted and costly war.
“Our nation must avoid another endless war in 2020 and the potential senseless loss of millions of lives,” Pocan said in a statement. “This administration must take necessary and decisive steps to de-escalate military action and instead prioritize diplomacy to secure peace in the region.”
Gallagher said history shows Iran backs down when faced with “no-kidding American power” and becomes more aggressive when confronted with inaction. He also defended Trump’s handling of the airstrike, saying the president has a constitutional right to take action in the defense of American people.
Going forward, Gallagher believes the administration should put more economic pressure on Iran and throw support behind protesters who are demanding a change in Iranian leadership.
“The fundamental rule of the Middle East is that things can always get worse,” he said. “But hopefully by standing strong with our allies, we can avoid further escalation, and obviously we all want to avoid further warfare in the Middle East.”
Wisconsin officials weigh in
Homeland Security chairman U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, condemned Iran but did not say whether he agreed with Trump’s decision.
“Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, has been escalating its malign actions for years,” said Johnson, who also is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is time for Iran to de-escalate and end its terrorist acts and use of proxies. Americans will continue to support the brave men and women who have volunteered to keep us safe.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, of Janesville, also declined to say whether he believes Trump made the right call.
“Iran actively works to destabilize countries in the Middle East,” he said in a statement. “Soleimani was instrumental in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. Our thoughts are with our service members and U.S. personnel who are threatened by Iran.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin acknowledged Soleimani’s role in the deaths of many people, including Americans, but cautioned against “another endless war” in the Middle East.
“It’s good that he is gone, but this unilateral action further escalates conflict in the Middle East and we need the Trump administration to explain to Congress and the American people their plan to de-escalate tensions with Iran and protect our troops and diplomats in harm’s way,” she said in a statement on Twitter.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat in western Wisconsin, chastised the president for taking military action without consulting Congress and without knowing how Iran will respond.
“There is no doubt that Soleimani was an enemy of the United States and has been responsible for the death of thousands — including many of our own men and women in uniform,” he said in a statement. “However, this Administration’s decision escalated an already tense situation with Iran, bringing us closer to another Middle Eastern conflict — something no one wants — with no clear long-term strategy.”
Aides to Democratic U.S. Rep Gwen Moore and GOP Reps. Glenn Grothman and Jim Sensenbrenner did not respond to requests for comment.
Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA TODAY contributed to this report.
Contact Haley BeMiller at 920-431-8212 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @haleybemiller.
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