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Vermont Delegation Members React To U.S. Drone Killing Of Iranian General

Demonstrators hold up pictures of Qassem Soleimani in Pakistan.
Muhammad Sajjad
Associated Press
Demonstrators in Pakistan hold up photos of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Members of Vermont's congressional delegation are weighing in on the Trump administration's decision to launch an airstrike in Iraq that killed a top Iranian military leader, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

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Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa on Friday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders called the killing of Soleimani a "dangerous escalation" and he criticized President Donald Trump's decision to carry out the drone strike.

"Tragically, his actions now put us on the path to another war," Sanders said. "Potentially one that could be even worse than before."

Sanders said the Trump administration did not consult with Congress before the attack.

"I believe strongly that a key step in ending our endless wars is for the Congress to re-assert its constitutional authority over matters of war," Sanders said.

According to media reports, the U.S. is sending about 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East in the wake of the attack.

In a written statement Friday afternoon, Rep. Peter Welch condemned Soleimani but still criticized the Trump administration's decision to launch the airstrike that killed him.

“President Trump’s decision to attack an Iranian convoy at the Baghdad airport was reckless and utterly without grounding in a coherent Middle East strategy. In doing so, he dramatically increased the risk of a grave escalation of violence in the region. And he placed American soldiers, diplomats and citizens around the world in harm’s way. "Make no mistake about it, Iran is a bad actor in the region. And Qassim Suleimani was the despicable mastermind of deadly and cowardly attacks on American soldiers during the Iraq war. In taking this action in the absence of a sensible and comprehensive strategy, the president dramatically increased the risk of our military being embroiled in a war. The American people do not want another war in the Middle East, certainly not one triggered by this impulsive and erratic president."

Like Sanders, Welch noted in his statement that the ability to authorize war is granted to Congress in the U.S. Constitution.

Welch called upon the Trump administration to appear before Congress to explain their reasoning for the attack, but he also called upon Congress to "do its job and check this president and the ideologues in his administration who seem hell-bent on going to war with Iran."

Sen. Patrick Leahy released a written statement Friday afternoon in which he expressed concern that the attack has made the U.S. vulnerable to retaliation.

"No one here will shed tears over the death of such a ruthless killer as Qasem Soleimani. His name is synonymous with the central role that Iran has played in promoting terrorism and instability in the Middle East and beyond, and many of his victims were Americans. “But killing Soleimani in response to Iran’s recent provocations against U.S. targets in Iraq is not going to end Iran’s support of terrorism or attacks against Americans. It is more likely to embolden hardliners in Iran and to trigger a further escalation of violent counter attacks."

Leahy noted that the relationship between Iran and U.S. has been increasingly strained since Trump withdrew from a nuclear agreement in 2018:

"Ever since President Trump made the reckless decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, our relations with Iran have gotten progressively worse. It has become painfully clear that the White House has no viable strategy for deescalating tensions with Iran. His impulse, again and again, has been to scramble the board with no strategy to reset it. To make matters worse, the decision to kill Soleimani – a dramatic escalation – was conducted without consulting the Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress or our allies. They, like us, now have to prepare for whatever retaliatory action Iran decides to take and the possibility of a protracted armed conflict with Iran."

Following suit with his fellow Vermont delegation members, Leahy said the White House needs to consult and receive approval from Congress prior to any more military action toward Iran.

Update 4:28 p.m. This post was updated to include Leahy's statement.

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