NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke with Hallie Jackson on MSNBC to give his reaction to the airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the potential implications of the escalating situation in the Middle East.
“Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist. He caused the lives of hundreds of Americans and civilians throughout the region. His direction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force was to destabilize the region, including our efforts in Iraq, so we are not going to lament his death. But the question that has to be answered by the Administration when Congress comes back into session is: What brought us to this moment? We have had other moments in which we could have taken Soleimani out but we did not. So, what brought us to this moment? What is the intelligence behind that decision and what comes next? I have been arguing for some time that the Trump Administration needs to devise a strategy as it relates to Iran and what’s our pathway forward. I fear that this administration used tactics but [still] has no strategy in the long-term. What we cannot accept is a march to an unauthorized war.”
On Secretary Pompeo’s claim that this attack was justified because it thwarted an imminent attack in the region:
“I want to see the intelligence that led us to this decision… I’m not sure that just eliminating Soleimani eliminates the threat of such an attack. They have already appointed a new military leader and they obviously are going to respond in some ways. The question is, what led us to this moment and this decision, and [why] do it in Iraq of all places which is already destabilized in its domestic politics…”
On the Trump Administration’s authority to carry out the strikes:
“This is why we need to see the facts. The Administration seems to think it has broad authority. And if they can prove, through the intelligence, that this was an imminent threat to U.S. interests and personnel, and that it was defensive in nature, then maybe it has the authority to do that. But if they cannot, then this, along with the attacks in response to the death of the U.S. contractor, [show] a gradual march to military action directly or indirectly with Iran which has not been authorized by Congress. If that is where you are headed, then you need to come to Congress to get an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) [which lays] jurisdictionally with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
On the prospect of retaliation by Iran:
“It can take so many different forms. Iran has a series of proxy networks that are violent. It could be Hezbollah against Israel. It could be the Houthis in Yemen. It could be attacks on the oil infrastructure of the Saudis, Emiratis, or Bahrainis. It could be attacks on the Strait of Hormuz as it relates to oil tankers… They can have sleeper cells inside the United States. It is possible for sympathizers and supporters of the Qudz Force in Iran to attack here. [There’s also] our diplomatic embassies and personnel across the globe and our forces throughout the region. There are endless possibilities. Iran does not need to challenge us militarily because we have superior military forces, but, asymmetrically, it can destabilize the region.”