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As congressional Republicans praise President Trump in the wake of a U.S. strike assassinating Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Democrats are raising alarms that Americans could face dangerous repercussions for years to come and renewing complaints about congressional authority.
Democrats are also warning that the airstrike early Friday near the Baghdad International Airport marks a dramatic escalation of tensions between Washington and Iran.
“The worry here, of course, is that this is actually going to get more Americans, not less Americans, killed,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Friday. “Is Qassem Soleimani more dangerous as a martyr than he was alive as the functional leader of the Quds Force? There will be reprisals.”
One key concern driving the split between Republicans and Democrats outlook: It appears the White House only alerted certain Republicans on Capitol Hill of the attack ahead of time. Otherwise, senior Democratic members of Congress say they were largely left in the dark ahead of the strike.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox & Friends on Friday that he was told about the planned attack during a recent golf outing with the president. Graham was spotted at the president’s course in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
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“When it comes to the death of General Soleimani, there is no one to blame but himself,” Graham tweeted Friday morning. “He effectively signed his own death warrant by planning massive attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
A wave of Republicans also issued support in statements overnight lauding the attacks, saying that Soleimani was a ruthless leader who directed the deaths of many Americans and others.
“Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said shortly following news of the attack. “Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice. America is safer now after Soleimani’s demise.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have blasted the president for not briefing Congress ahead of time.
The concern touches on a years-long debate that the president’s war powers are woefully outdated, with Democrats most recently leading calls for a new legislation addressing the president’s Authorization for Use of Military Force or AUMF.
Congress last issued these war power directives in 2001 and 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and there has been a push to address Iran in a potential AUMF.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was not told about the attack and didn’t gather details until afterward, a congressional aide told NPR. Pelosi spoke to Defense Secretary Mark Esper around 9:40 p.m. for 13 minutes, the aide said.
“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night. “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.”