Two influential US Republican lawmakers called Iran’s decision to launch more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that hold US troops an “act of war” and said the country is under “direct attack,” as their Democratic colleagues urged a more measured US response to the strike.
In a statement, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, an elite wing of the Iranian military, said the attacks were “hard revenge” for the American airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani last week.
That led Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fierce ally to President Donald Trump, to call the attack an “act of war” when speaking with Fox News on Tuesday night.
“The missiles were launched from Iran at targets inside of Iraq housing US military personnel. The President has all the authority he needs under Article II (of the Constitution) to respond, and how he responds is yet to be determined, but he has that authority to respond,” Graham said. “It was an act of war by a regime that for the last 40 years has been a cancer in the Mideast.”
Graham later added: “Let me say tonight, if you are watching television in Iran, I just got off the phone to the President: Your fate is in your own hands in terms of the regime’s economic viability. You continue this crap, you’re going to wake up one day out of the oil business.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, tweeted that Iran “is now openly calling for American’s to turn on each other.”
“The time will come to debate U.S. policy. Tonight American & allied troops have come under direct attack by a nation-state & Americans must come together to support & protect them & respond appropriately,” Rubio said.
White House aides had initially made plans for a possible address to the nation by Trump, according to two officials, but a White House official said the President would not speak on Tuesday. Trump later tweeted, “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
The initial assessment is the Iranian missiles struck areas of the al-Asad base that are not populated by Americans, according to a US military official and a senior administration official. Officials have said the US is awaiting daylight to get a full assessment of the results of the strike.
That led some Democratic lawmakers to stress the need for a measured response short of “endless war.”
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Iran’s attack “a dangerous escalation” and urged the Iranian government to “show restraint.”
“We are at a critical juncture where we still have an opportunity to be responsible and pursue diplomatic channels; our nation has friends and allies who will stand with us. The American people are not interested in getting involved in yet another endless war in the Middle East with no clear goal or strategy,” he said in a news release.
“Now is the time to shore up our alliances. We must focus on protecting Americans, our assets, our allies and those innocent civilians who bear the burden of conflict.”
Menendez’s comments were echoed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, who tweeted Tuesday, “We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.”
On the presidential campaign trail, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota tweeted, “As we await the casualty assessment from tonight’s attacks, it is vital that we take this moment to consider any response.”
She added: “A full-blown war with Iran is not in the national security interest of the U.S. or allies in the region.”
Notably, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — a Republican and Trump ally who has been critical of the escalating tensions with Iran — tweeted Tuesday that “while I would have preferred they come home long ago, there is also no excuse for this action by Iran.”
“We need to stop the escalation before it leads to another endless war in the Middle East,” he said.