WASHINGTON - The killing by the United States of Iran's most powerful general has increased tensions between the two countries and raised concerns of all-out war. It was a key topic in Tuesday’s Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Questions over the killing of Gen. Qassem Suleimani quickly led to a broader conversation about the president’s ability to take unilateral military action. Unless an imminent threat required a quick response, all six Democratic candidates pledged to seek congressional approval. But, not all candidates agreed over the removal of troops in the region.
Here’s what the candidates had to say:
Former Vice President Joe Biden:
His response to U.S. President Trump's decision to kill Iranian Soleimani without first going to Congress:
"I ran the first time as a 29-year-old kid against the war in Vietnam on the grounds that the only way to take a nation to war is with the informed consent of the American people."
"We're in a situation where our allies in Europe are making a comparison between the United States and Iran , saying both ought to stand down, making a moral equivalence."
"We have lost our standing in the region. We have lost the support of our allies."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
Klobuchar said U.S. President Donald Trump's move in the killing of Soleimani was to blame Iran for "starting to enrich uranium again." She said he is "taking us pell mell toward another war."
"We just found out today that four Republicans are joining Democrats to go to him and say you must have an authorization of military force if you're going to go to war with Iran. That is so important because we have a situation where he got us out of the Iranian nuclear agreement I worked on for a significant period of time."
Responding to a question on foreign policy, Klobuchar said she would leave some U.S. combat troops in Iraq, but qualified her answer, saying, "I would leave some troops there, but not in the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now." She added that, if elected, she would keep a small number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, performing counterterrorism and training duties.
Sen. Bernie Sanders:
On the recent events in Iran:
"... right now, what I fear very much is we have a president who is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq.” He added, “We have got to undo what Trump did, bring that coalition together and make sure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon."
Sanders agreed that Trump's decision to not inform Congress on killing Soleimani was wrong:
"We cannot keep acting unilaterally, as you know, the nuclear deal with Iran was worked on with a number of our allies," he said. "The American people are sick and tired of endless wars."
The billionaire hedge fund manager and environmentalist said Trump "obviously has no strategy" in dealing with Iran and agreed with Biden that it would take the efforts of an international coalition to rein in its nuclear ambitions.
Senator Elizabeth Warren:
Sen. Warren of Massachusetts said she would move to bring thousands of U.S. troops home from the Middle East: "We have to stop this mindset that the answer" to the world's trouble spots is to send U.S. troops overseas. Asked whether she would leave some combat troops in the Middle East, she replied: "No, we have to get them out."
The former South Bend, Indiana Mayor tied Trump's decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal with the stand-off following the drone strike that killed Soleimani, saying the move "set off the chain of events that we’re now dealing with as it escalates even closer to the brink of outright war."
When asked about the role of the U.S. Congress in authorizing war, Buttigieg said there should be a three-year sunset on such authorizations, a frequent campaign trail talking point.
"If our troops can summon the courage to go overseas in harm’s way, then we have to make sure that congress has the courage to take tough up or down votes," he said.