On Jan. 4, President Donald Trump announced through the social network Twitter that they had identified 52 Iranian targets to respond “very quickly” and “very strongly” to an eventual retaliation from Tehran for the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.), who was also a U.S. military veteran of Iraq and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that with the U.S. decisions, “We took a powerful piece of the chessboard.”
Watkins said the decisions were now moving from an Obama policy of conciliatory announcements to Donald Trump’s deterrent decisions, which placed the United States as a credible threat.
“And that is so imperative for those of us who have been tactical on the ground. Now Iran will continue to escalate. (…) But we need to focus on our mission that is clear, we have a clear and deep mission, and that is to promote prosperity throughout the region,” Watkins said.
“Do it by, with and through our allies using our military force if need be, but preferably economic information and diplomacy,” Watkins added.
Scott asked Watkins for his opinion on what would happen if Iraq threatens to expel U.S. troops as a result of the air attack, even though such intervention has cost the United States “blood and treasure there.”
“I saw the statements of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi … and kind of like Secretary Pompeo, I believe that he knows the actual situation is he and many of his people want the United States there,” Watkins said, adding that the fact “that there demonstrators rejoicing over the fact that we killed Soleimani” makes the U.S. presence in that territory worthwhile.
But at the same time he acknowledged that there would be a retaliatory attack by Iran, probably right there on the battle space. “I have been on the ground there and my heart goes out to the soldiers and individuals and diplomats and the contractors there,” Watkins added.
Watkins said that while the United States was going through difficult times now, a long-term action would be even riskier than a short-term one.
The Scott said that in the face of the situation that has been seen in recent days, many Democrats are upset, and he quoted Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who said he wants to see the resolution of the war powers shelved.
In that regard Scott asked Watkins if he believed that President Trump’s determinations had led to increased tensions to start a war.
“Jon, no. I’ve heard the Democrats response. At first they where talking about elements of just war theory. For example was it a proportionate response, I heard that. I also heard did he have the authority? He absolutely the authority,” the Watkins said.
“Now this insurgent, that’s what he was a combatant in Iraq had killed hundreds of American service members. So we had every bit the rights, and i would be happy to debate that with any Democrat in the House,” Watkins said.
“The argument is though you cut the head off the snake, but the snake remains alive, and that it will just grow a new head,” exclaimed Scott.
Watkins suggested that after Soleimani strengthened his relationship with Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, he became “a kind of folk hero,” noting that this is why this is a victory for the United States and that in that sense it was necessary to “establish ourselves as a credible threat, even on a tactical level.”
“We want them to believe that if anything where to happen to us, then a precision guided hellfire missile from a reaper drone was gonna come raining down on them,” Watkins added.