Democratic candidates warn against Middle East escalation after U.S. kills Iranian general

WASHINGTON — Many top Democratic presidential candidates cautioned against potential military escalation in the Middle East after a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian official, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 

“Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who vocally opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2002, wrote in a statement released Thursday evening. “Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.” 

Sanders’s congressional office also released an overnight video showing the candidate vowing that he will “apologize to no one” about his antiwar record, which dates back to the Vietnam era and includes votes against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that Trump “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” and “owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond.” 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that the strike, on Iraqi soil, was “reckless” and would undoubtedly escalate tensions. “Our priority must be to avoid another costly war,” she wrote.

Both Biden and Warren described Soleimani as a murderer, responsible for the “deaths of thousands.” Such language was not present in Sanders’s statement.

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani and tweets from Democratic presidential candidates. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote in a statement that “as a former military intelligence officer on the ground in Afghanistan, I was trained to ask the hard questions before acting. A Commander-in-Chief must do the same.” Buttigieg advised that subsequent decisions should be measured, not made “capriciously or through Twitter. The consequences are grave, as anyone who has served in uniform understands all too well.”

Author Marianne Williamson, who a day earlier laid off her entire paid campaign staff (although she said she’s still in the race), tweeted that the “killing of Qasem Solemani by US military was one of the most reckless irresponsible actions ever directed by a US President,” adding, “Congress deserves condemnation for allowing it ... and Americans need to understand this: War with Iran would be totally disastrous.”

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg wrote in a statement that while Soleimani was a “murderer with the blood of Americans on his hands,” given Trump’s “history of making reckless and impulsive decisions that undermine U.S. strategic objectives and weaken our allies — most recently in Syria — there is every reason to be concerned.”

Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts, tweeted that Trump “owes the American people and the world an explanation.” Former congressman John Delaney tweeted, “The Administration’s failure to brief Congressional leadership on this action is troubling and raises the risk of reckless actions that could lead to a dangerous escalation.”

Businessman Andrew Yang tweeted that the airstrike “highlights the need to get Donald Trump out of office.” Yang wrote in a prior tweet that “the priority now has to be protecting our embassies, bases and personnel in the region and hardening our defenses. We must ensure that Americans do not pay a terrible price for this attack.” 

The State Department warned all Americans in Iraq to leave the country.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted that the “timing, manner, and potential consequences of the Administration’s actions raise serious questions and concerns about an escalating conflict.”

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet told WGBH’s “Morning Edition” that “this was a terribly reckless and provocative act. It’s the latest in a long string of nonstrategic choices that Donald Trump has made in the Middle East, that has weakened our position in the Middle East, that has strengthened Iran’s position in the Middle East.”

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told Fox News Friday morning that the attack was “very clearly an act of war by this president without any kind of authorization or declaration of war from Congress, clearly violating the Constitution.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also criticized Trump, tweeting that “we have a president who has no strategic plan when it comes to Iran and has only made that region less stable and less safe.”

Gallup poll last August found that by a large majority, Americans, including Republicans, opposed military action against Iran — although that was asked in the context of stopping the regime’s nuclear program, not what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Friday as an “imminent” threat to Americans from the Quds Force, which Soleimani headed. On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that Soleimani should have been “taken out a long time ago.”

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The killing of Qassem Soleimani
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The killing of Qassem Soleimani
This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)
This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)
This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)
IRAQ shaded relief map highlighted with BAGHDAD blast locator, with AIRPORT ATTACK lettering, finished graphic
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani stands at the frontline during offensive operations against Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba in Salahuddin province March 8, 2015. Picture taken March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT POLITICS PROFILE HEADSHOT)
Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 3, 2020. Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" for the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Tehran's top general and the architect of its interventions across the Middle East, as tensions soared in the wake of the targeted killing. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 3, 2020. Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" for the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Tehran's top general and the architect of its interventions across the Middle East, as tensions soared in the wake of the targeted killing. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
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