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Roe: U.S. ‘a safer place’ without Iranian general; president had ‘absolute’ authority to order strike

Jonathan Roberts • Jan 8, 2020 at 8:40 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said he believes the world is “a safer place” after the United States “appropriately” killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an drone strike in Iraq last week, and that U.S. President Donald Trump “absolutely had the authority” to order the strike without congressional approval.

“This guy was clearly an enemy combatant, this was a guy who killed Americans — this guy was a man we know ... butchered and killed American (service members),” Roe said. “I think this response we’ve made was very appropriate and I think the team the president has around him gave him really good advice on this.” 

Roe’s remarks come after Iran fired a barrage of rockets at two U.S. military installations in Iraq on Tuesday night in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Soleimani. No American or foreign service members were injured in the strikes, and the bases only suffered “minimal” damage, something Roe feels was deliberately done by the Iranians to give both sides an opportunity to deescalate tensions between Iran and the U.S.

“Either the Iranians can’t shoot straight and hit anything, or deliberately they didn’t hit anything, and I think it’s the second,” Roe said of the rocket attack. “I think for their own personal and political (gain) at home they had to do something and this is what they did — and opened the door for a negotiation.

Roe also said that, while he “doubts this is the last attack” — either by Iran or by militia groups — he feels there could’ve been some discussions between Iranian and U.S. officials before the strike.

“I’m not repeating anything I heard in the classified briefing (given to members of the house by senior White House officials Wednesday afternoon), but there could’ve been a back channel opened between our administration and theirs saying: ‘Look, we understand you’ve got to (retaliate) for your own political consumption, just don’t hit anything’,” Roe said.

In a national address on Wednesday, Trump said that the U.S. was “ready to embrace peace,” but that they will continue pressuring Iran with “punishing” economic sanctions.

Roe said he believed the president’s speech was “measured” and that he “left the door open” for Iran to ease tensions between the two countries. 

“What the president said today was, probably, from a foreign policy standpoint, the best speech he’s given,” Roe said. “It was short, to the point and he was conciliatory and opened the door (for an end to hostilities) — I think the president’s speech today pulled the fuse out of the stick of dynamite.” 

In his speech, the president said “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” something Iranian officials have also signaled. 

And though there has been little debate in Washington over whether Soleimani deserved to be killed, there has been strong pushback against the president’s decision to authorize the strike, particularly among Democrats, though several Republican senators have also expressed concern. There are separate resolutions in both the House and Senate that seek to limit the president’s authority to authorize a military strike without first briefing congress. 

Roe, however, was unmoved in his support for the president’s actions, saying “unequivocally” the president had the authority to order the strike without congressional approval, but that he hadn’t yet looked at the resolution the House is expected to vote on Thursday.  

“I’ve got to see what it looks like first, but I’m not going to limit (the president’s war powers),” Roe said, adding that he was similarly supportive of former President Barack Obama’s use of military force without congressional approval. “No matter what the president does, somebody is going to harp and complain about it — I think the world is a safer place (with Soleimani dead).”  

Daryl Carter, a political historian and professor at East Tennessee State University, said events like last week’s drone strike should make Americans question what their government is doing to ensure it’s in the country’s best interest. 

“I think (asking questions) would be something every good American citizen should (do) when its government takes major action abroad,” Carter said, saying people should look at why the action was taken, how it affects the country and what the long-term implications are.

Carter also said that, while there are legitimate arguments for and against the targeted killing of Soleimani, it depends on “philosophical, constitutional and partisan questions about what happened and why it happened.”

“People have been asking questions (since it happened) about the legality of what took place, but I would not offer comment on that either way, other than to say there are legitimate questions and points of view that either this is well-within the president's constitutional authority or that it is illegal either under U.S. law or international law to target a foreign official for assasination,” Carter said. 

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