SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah’s congressional delegation are responding to the U.S. killing of influential Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in an American airstrike near the Baghdad airport Friday.
The killing of Soleimani, which was ordered by President Donald Trump, has been met with praise from some U.S. lawmakers and criticism from others.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told KSL NewsRadio Friday morning that the U.S. will likely want to reassure its allies that its next steps will be measured.
“This Soleimani is one of the worst characters on the world stage in the last generation,” Stewart said. “We would want to reassure allies: ‘Look, we need to confront (Iran), but we’ll do it in a careful way, and we’re not looking to escalate. We’re looking, in fact, just for the opposite, to de-escalate.’”
The U.S. Department of Defense said Soleimani was killed because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."
Trump’s initial response to the killing was tweeting out a photo of the American flag on Thursday evening.
Early Friday morning, Trump tweeted more about the killing, saying that Soleimani was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people.”
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more… but got caught!” Trump said. “He should have been taken out many years ago!”
General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, didn’t mince words when asked about Soleimani.
“(Soleimani) was a terrorist who actively worked to kill Americans, and there have to be consequences for that,” he told KSL NewsRadio on Friday morning.
McAdams added that men and women serving in U.S. armed forces were at the forefront of his mind upon learning the news of Soleimani’s death.
“What reassurances I can give is that men and women and their families who are in the armed services, they are at the forefront of my mind right now,” he said. “That we will not take any risks, and I will not support taking any risks that aren’t warranted for the safety and long-term interest of our country, and we will do it and make those judgments in a nonpartisan way.”
In a series of tweets, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called Soleimani a “depraved terrorist.”
“(Soleimani) had the blood of hundreds of American servicemen and women on his hands, and … was doubtlessly planning operations to further harm our citizens and allies,” Romney tweeted. “With ever-increasing challenges confronting us in the Middle East, it’s imperative that the U.S. & our allies articulate & pursue a coherent strategy for protecting our security interests in the region.”
Romney added that he will be working to gather more information from the Trump administration in the coming days.
Qassem Soleimani was a depraved terrorist who had the blood of hundreds of American servicemen and women on his hands, and who was doubtlessly planning operations to further harm our citizens and allies.— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) January 3, 2020
Stewart commended Trump and American intelligence officials on their actions.
The U.S. demonstrated restraint in response to prior aggression from Iran, Stewart said. But he added that the country could not stand by after the New Year’s Eve attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which is believed to have been carried out by Iran-backed militia and other protestors.
“I’m grateful for the president’s commitment to doing what is decisive but fairly bold action, and I’m so grateful for the absolute brilliance of our intelligence and military forces that demonstrated that we will defend and we can defend American lives and American interests,” he added Friday. “We’ve made it very clear with the Iranians and with every other country: If you kill American citizens, we’re not going to sit back on that.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, released a brief statement Friday morning regarding Soleimani's death.
“The death of Qasem Soleimani is a big victory for the safety of the American people," Lee said. "As always, I am anxious to learn about the legal justification for this action, and look forward to being briefed by the Pentagon and the White House.”
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, commended Trump for ordering Soleimani's death.
"Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq and elsewhere," Curtis said in a news release Friday. "With reports of Soleimani actively plotting more attacks against the US, the President acted decisively to protect countless lives including our service members, diplomats, and everyday citizens."
Curtis said he expects someone from the Trump administration to brief him and the rest of the House Foreign Affairs Committee membership on Soleimani's death as soon as possible.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, told KSL NewsRadio Friday that something the elimination of Soleimani should never be taken lightly.
"In this particular situation, where you had somebody who has very definitely attacked U.S. citizens as well as our assets, and also has very definitely planned future attacks and future strikes... this seems like the appropriate approach," Bishop said. "So I have to support the president as commander in chief for going in there and trying to protect Americans going forward, and putting down the marker that the U.S. takes this type of activity seriously."
He went on to say that the strike on Soleimani may have been a long time coming for Iran.
"Obviously showing restraint to Iran is something they do not respect," Bishop added. "Perhaps it sends a message that we should have sent a long time ago that the United States will respond actively when threatened by a foreign country."