Sunday, January 19, 2020

Eliminating Terrorist Soleimani was Acting in America's Best Interest

Rep. Phil Roe
by Congressman Phil Roe - The relationship between the United States and Iran was not always fraught with tension; but since the 1979 Revolution, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini made it clear Iran would no longer be a friend to the U.S. From the hostage crisis in November 1979 to present day with Iran shooting down an American drone in June 2019, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been escalating for 40 years. These tensions reached a breaking point on December 31, 2019 when Iranian-backed militia groups chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel” while storming the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, setting fire to buildings.

This incident was the latest in a string of destabilizing attacks by Iranian-backed forces that escalated as they faced little consequence for their attacks. Thankfully, the president took decisive action and eliminated one of the world’s top terrorist - designated as a terrorist under the Obama administration- who is most directly responsible for those attacks, Qasem Soleimani.

As leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) – a group President Trump rightly designated as a terrorist organization, General Soleimani planned and carried out numerous terror attacks resulting in the deaths of over 600 Americans. Under Soleimani’s direction, the IRGC-QF engaged in numerous terrorist activities: in May 2019, they reportedly attacked and seized commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman; attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in September 2019 attempting to destabilize the world oil market; and fired rockets into the K1 military base in Iraq, resulting in the death of a U.S. civilian contractor and four U.S. servicemembers.

The recent escalation by Iran led President Trump to act against Soleimani on January 3, 2020. President Trump ordered the elimination of General Soleimani by airstrike, thereby holding Iran accountable for their actions and no longer allowing Iran and the IRGC-QF to operate with impunity in the region and around the world. I support the president’s action and think the world is a safer place because of it.

Unlike the Obama administration that did nothing but appease the leaders of Iran, President Trump continues to promote accountability and “maximum pressure” on Iran through monetary sanctions and military action when necessary. President Trump rightfully pulled the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – more commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal. That disastrous “deal” lifted many of the economic sanctions that were in place, provided access to over $1.5 billion in cash and allowed Iran to maintain portions of its nuclear program. The U.S. should never have entered this deal that provided sanction relief to Tehran, and we should have continued economic pressure until Iran not only ceased its nuclear program but also its support for, and funding of, global terrorism.

President Trump showed great restraint throughout all the escalation by Iran, even stating the U.S. was willing to “embrace peace” after Iran fired missiles at the Ayn al-Asad airbase in Iraq on January 8, 2020, a strategic location where the U.S. maintains a military presence. Thankfully, no U.S. or Iraqi servicemembers were harmed in that missile attack. He said to the people and leaders of Iran, “We want you to have a future and a great future – one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” I could not agree more. No one wants war, and we are ready to encourage peace throughout the region.

Despite Iran’s continued escalation and the decisive military action taken by President Trump, many of my Democrat colleagues claimed the attack on Soleimani was unjustified and escalated tensions. I disagree. Instead of supporting the president’s act of strength, House Democrats passed a misguided resolution that undermines President Trump’s anti-terror efforts, rebuking his actions to eliminate this threat. Soleimani repeatedly advocated for, and implemented, attacks that cost Americans their lives. By removing him, Iran is truly deterred from continuing to fund attacks that destabilize the Middle East. In the future, hopefully Iran will come to the table for real negotiations. President Trump’s actions and attitude toward Iran and its constant aggression and escalation has been tough but fair. He took decisive military action after Iran repeatedly acted against the U.S., our allies and assets across the Middle East. The president’s decision to remove a top international terrorist is the response I hope to see our president make and the kind that is in America’s best interest.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.

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