IRAN; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 1
(Senate - January 03, 2020)

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[Pages S7-S8]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Speaking of critical moments, I do want to say a word 
about the rapidly escalating conflict with Iran.
  General Soleimani was a violent man who died a violent death, but the 
question facing us is not whether the target of the attack was a good 
or bad man. The question is what will be the consequence of this action 
taken by the United States, and more broadly, what is President Trump's 
strategy for moving forward to advance U.S. national interests in the 
region and in the safety of Americans?
  President Trump came into office saying he wanted to end America's 
wars in the Middle East, but today, we are closer to war with Iran than 
ever before. The administration's reckless policy over the last 3 years 
has brought us to this brink. Make no mistake, from day one, President 
Trump and ideologues within his administration have escalated tensions 
with Iran without a strategy. They launched their deliberate, ``maximum 
pressure campaign'' without any realistic goals. Can anyone tell us 
today what President Trump's endgame is with respect to Iran?
  Everything we have seen over the last 3 years has demonstrated that 
this President is not capable of thinking beyond the first move in a 
chess game and has been surrounded by ideological sycophants, not 
regional or national security experts. They are people who are here to 
please his whims and have no capacity for the sophisticated conflict 
escalation management that will now be required more than ever to avoid 
an all-out war with Iran. It is a war that would harm our country in 
ways we cannot imagine strategically, economically, and in loss of 
  The stated goal of the action taken was to ``protect American 
lives,'' but Americans throughout the region are at greater risk today 
than they were yesterday. That is why our embassy in Iraq advised 
Americans to leave quickly. Our embassies and personnel across the 
region are now in even more danger, not just in Baghdad, but elsewhere

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in the area and, in fact, around the world. American troops have become 
even bigger targets. What about the American humanitarian organizations 
and their personnel abroad, American students, and American tourists? 
They are all at greater risk as a result of the action taken.
  Secretary Pompeo's call today for deescalation after the 
assassination is a pipe dream. What we do know--and no one should be 
surprised--is that Iran has stated that the assassination of the 
general is tantamount to a declaration of war and they will strike back 
at a place and time of their choosing. We know with certainty that a 
response will come and that Iran and its allies have the ability to act 
against Americans and American interests across the region.
  Moreover, the assassination will likely lead to a decline in American 
influence in Iraq and, as a result, even greater Iranian power and 
influence in that country. Our ally, the Iraqi Government, has already 
stated that the attack on its soil violated its sovereignty. Prime 
Minister Mahdi called for an extraordinary session of the Iraqi 
Parliament to safeguard Iraq's sovereignty, calling the strike ``a 
dangerous escalation that will light the fuse of a destructive war in 
Iraq, the region, and the world.''
  Iraq's President, Barham Salih, also condemned the strikes. Here is 
the Reuters' piece: ``Iraq president condemns U.S. strike, urges 
  These are our allies in the Iraqi Government who are condemning these 
actions and saying that they will lead to a spiral toward war, and 
these statements came just days after the Iraqi Prime Minister and the 
President had made similar warnings about prior American actions in 
Iraq. This is already intensifying calls within Iraq to expel U.S. 
forces. Who do we think is going to fill the vacuum there? Iran. It 
already has enormous influence in Iraq, and now we are going to be 
giving it even more.
  This administration, like the Bush administration, has never 
understood basic political geography. Iran is a large Shia country that 
borders Iraq. Iraq is also a majority Shia country. Ever since the 
United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and removed Saddam Hussein, Iran's 
influence in Iraq has steadily grown. The assassination may appear 
gratifying in the short term, for, as I said, he was a bad person who 
had a lot of blood on his hands, but it has likely ushered in the most 
volatile moment in the Middle East in a very, very long time.
  The same group of warmongering, political ideologues who told 
Americans that the Iraq war would lead to democracy's breaking out in 
the Middle East is telling us today that the Iranians will be 
celebrating in the streets. The truth is that this action will likely 
usher in the most militant Parliament in Iran that we will have seen in 
decades. The door will be closed completely on the hard-won moment for 
trying to derail Iranian nuclear ambitions through negotiations.
  In closing, this is a pivotal and dangerous moment for America as the 
result of reckless policies over the last 3 years. The President's 
action may become the spark that could trigger another war in the 
Middle East. Let us here in Congress make very clear that President 
Trump has no authority to take America to war against Iran. Our 
Constitution requires that Congress authorize any decision to go to 
war, and Congress has not given that authorization.
  In the days and weeks ahead, I hope all of us will do our duty as 
Senators to look at the situation we find ourselves in at this moment, 
and I hope we will resolve to do what President Trump said he wanted to 
do while he was campaigning for President, which is to not plunge us 
into more wars in the Middle East but to find a way to use our 
influence and our power responsibly to stabilize the situation there.
  I yield the floor.