After President Donald Trump’s last minute decision to call off a retaliatory air strike on Iran, Montana’s congressional delegation says it supports tough actions following the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone.
The president Friday morning told the press he was “cocked and loaded” for a military strike on three different locations following Iran’s downing Thursday of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the drone violated the nation's airspace, an assessment with which the U.S. disagrees. President Trump said he cancelled the order minutes before it was supposed to start. He had been advised that 150 people would die in the strike and concluded the deaths would be excessive.
“…10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump tweeted. “not.... proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
Montana Republicans U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte emphasized that there was no attack when asked about whether the president was right to order the strike, later canceled. A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said the Democrat supported President’s decision not to order the attack.
“There was no attack on Iran and I support the President’s effort to defend the United States and its citizens,” said U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., in an email.
A spokesman for Gianforte said the state’s only U.S. Representative, now a candidate for governor, believes Iran would welcome a crisis.
“Congressman Gianforte believes Iran’s leaders seem desperate for a crisis to pressure other world leaders to lighten the sanctions,” said Tom Schultz, speaking for Gianforte. “The U.S. must protect the lives of Americans and its allies in the region. There are varied responses, both diplomatic and military, to the Iranian attack and the U.S. should consider all the options.”
The United States has deployed military to the Middle East. An aircraft carrier has also been sent to the Persian Gulf. The Associated Press reported that late Thursday, in advance of U.S. preparations for a retaliatory strike, the Federal Aviation Administration barred American-registered aircraft from flying over parts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and several major airlines from around the world on Friday began rerouting their flights.
“I’m supportive of President Trump’s pressure on Iran and efforts to deter hostile actions from the world’s leading sponsor of terror,” Daines said, when asked what response he would support. “In addition to the 1,000 U.S. troops recently deployed to the Middle East, the U.S. should maintain severe sanctions on Iran, restrict its ability to export oil, and work with our allies in the region to counter Iran’s support of terror around the world and any effort to develop nuclear weapons.”
Daines, like Gianforte, will be a candidate in 2020. The senator is seeking a second term.
Tester is concerned about Trump’s advisers pushing brinkmanship too far, said Sarah Feldman, the senator’s communications director.
“He has supported tough actions against Iran and will always hold them accountable. But Senator Tester is concerned that the behavior of this administration and its advisers like John Bolton are unnecessarily driving our nation towards war while alienating our closest allies,” Feldman said in an email. “He believes we cannot recklessly enter into another endless war that puts American lives at risk and costs taxpayers billions of dollars.”
Thousands of U.S. troops remain in the Middle East following the official ends of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, actions launched more than 15 years ago. It would take congressional approval for the U.S. to wage war on Iran.
Gianforte will not discuss the conditions under which he would vote in favor of authorizing military force against Iran because talking about it strengthens the position Iran’s regime, Schultz said.
Daines said war isn’t the U.S. objective, but rather deterring hostile action by Iran.
“Protecting our national security and the citizens of the United States is of paramount importance,” Daines said. “I will continue to work with the President and his Administration to ensure our military has the resources and capability to defend ourselves against any threat.”
Iran’s production of nuclear material has long been a concern of the United States and other nations, who worry that Iran’s development of nuclear fuel, it says for generating electricity, would produce a nuclear weapon. After years of sanctions, the U.S. and five other nations reached an agreement with Iran in 2015 that lifted the sanctions provided the nation toned down its nuclear program and allowed inspections.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, calling it the "worst deal ever." The U.S. then imposed sanctions on Iran again while the other partners of the agreement stuck with the deal.
Withdrawing from the deal made the United States less safe, Feldman said on Tester’s behalf. Tester supported the agreement when it was struck by former President Barack Obama.
Daines and Gianforte both sided with Trump’s decision to exit the Iran deal, which they said benefited Iran without offering security to the United States.
“I strongly opposed the Iran Deal and support the President’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). It is critical that the U.S. maintains pressure on the Iranian regime and counters its effort to sponsor terror around the world and develop nuclear capabilities,” Daines said.