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Democratic presidential candidates react to Soleimani strike

U.S.: Killing Iranian general was defensive

Democratic presidential candidates are expressing concern after a U.S. airstrike in Iraq Thursday night killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds military force and one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic. 

While candidates are not mourning the loss of Soleimani, whom the Defense Department has blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, several are criticizing President Trump for ordering the attack. 

Here is a rundown of candidates' reactions to the airstrike that killed Soleimani. 

Joe Biden

"No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani's passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos. None of that negates the fact that this is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region. The Administration's statement says that its goal is to deter future attacks by Iran, but this action almost certainly will have the opposite effect. President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond. I'm not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the Administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen. But I fear this Administration has not demonstrated at any turn the discipline or long-term vision necessary — and the stakes could not be higher." — Statement, January 2

Michael Bloomberg

"Qassem Soleimani was a murderer with the blood of Americans on his hands. Without more information, we can only hope that the president has carefully thought through the national security implications of this attack for our country and the grave risks involved. But given his track record and his history of making reckless and impulsive decisions that undermine U.S. strategic objectives and weaken our allies — most recently in Syria — there is every reason to be deeply concerned. It is imperative that the administration now de-escalate this crisis in order to prevent wider conflicts and protect American lives, and prevent Iran from escaping domestic pressure to reform its political and economic systems." — Tweeted statement, January 3

Cory Booker

"First, let's be clear. Soleimani has American blood on his hands. He was involved in and ordered attacks that cost American lives and wounded many other soldiers. This is somebody who is a bad person, but we also have to look at the larger strategic situation in that area. We have a president has had a failure in his Iranian policy, who has had no larger strategic plan, and has made that region less stable and less safe." — On MSNBC, January 2 

Pete Buttigieg

"The top priority of a Commander-in-Chief must be to protect Americans and our national security interests. There is no question that Qassim Suleimani was a threat to that safety and security, and that he masterminded threats and attacks on Americans and our allies, leading to hundreds of deaths. But there are serious questions about how this decision was made and whether we are prepared for the consequences.

"As a former military intelligence officer on the ground in Afghanistan, I was trained to ask the hard questions before acting. A Commander-in-Chief must do the same.

"Before engaging in military action that could destabilize an entire region, we must take a strategic, deliberate approach that includes consultation with Congress, our allies, and stakeholders in the Middle East. The lawful, constitutional role of Congress in matters
of war and peace must be respected. And the American people deserve answers on how we arrived at this point, the national security infrastructure we have in place, and the basis for this decision.

"Now we must deal with the consequences of this action, beginning with the immediate and very real dangers to American citizens in and out of uniform in the Middle East. We must prepare for the impact on regional stability, complex forms of retaliation, and the potential for escalation into war.

"As we learn more in the coming days and weeks, one thing is clear: this must not be the start of another endless war. We must act wisely and deliberately, not capriciously or through Twitter. The consequences are grave, as anyone who has served in uniform understands all too well." — Statement, January 3

John Delaney

"What is important at this moment in time is full coordination between the Administration and Congress to ensure the safety of all Americans in Iraq and throughout the region. That has to be our number one priority. While Soleimani was directly responsible for the deaths of countless lives, including many Americans, and was a significant danger to our troops and a destabilizing force in the region and deserved to be brought to justice for his actions against our troops, the Administration's failure to brief Congressional leadership on this action is troubling and raises the risk of reckless actions that could lead to a dangerous escalation."  — Statement, January 3

Tulsi Gabbard

"Just since May of last year alone...we've seen more than 15,000 U.S. troops — additional U.S. troops — being deployed across the Middle East. All of these actions pushing us closer and closer to this war with Iran, and this step that he just took last night seriously escalated the situation. It's becoming more clear that our troops are really there to fight against Iran — once again, a war that Congress has not authorized." — On Fox News, January 3

Amy Klobuchar

"Qassem Soleimani was responsible for directing Iran's destabilizing actions in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East, including attacks U.S. forces. But the timing, manner, and potential consequences of the Administration's actions raise serious questions and concerns about an escalating conflict. Our immediate focus needs to be on ensuring all necessary security measures are taken to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq and throughout the region. The administration needs to fully consult with Congress on its decision-making, response plans, and strategy for preventing wider conflict." — Statement, January 2

Deval Patrick

"Qassim Suleimani was a menace to the world and to peace-loving people everywhere. He was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including Americans, and his death will not be mourned by me.

"At the same time, a difficult situation is becoming more dangerous because of a lack of leadership. Responsible leadership requires that we consider and plan for the consequences in advance, but unfortunately we do not have a responsible leader. Without the President explaining the plan or path forward, we risk making the situation even more perilous and our country and the world less safe. Our priorities now must be de-escalation, protecting our country and our allies, the American people, and innocents everywhere, and working with Congress and our allies to stabilize the region.

"Americans deserve a leader who they can trust in moments like these. The President owes the American people and the world an explanation of his strategy and what the next steps will be going forward." — Statement, January 3

Bernie Sanders

"When I voted against the war in Iraq in 2002, I feared it would lead to greater destabilization of the country and the region. Today, 17 years later, that fear has unfortunately turned out to be true.

"The United States has lost approximately 4,500 brave troops, tens of thousands have been wounded, and we've spent trillions on this war.

"Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.

"Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one." — Statement, January 2

Tom Steyer

"Soleimani was a terrorist responsible for killing Americans. But this wasn't authorized by Congress and is an escalation that risks a wider war with Iran. Mr. Trump risks making a bad situation worse with reckless action."

Elizabeth Warren

"Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war."  — Tweeted statement, January 2

Marianne Williamson

"This isn't about whether Soleimani was a "good man" any more than it was about whether Saddam was a good man. It's about smart versus stupid use of military power. Invading Iraq was criminally irresponsible & tweets like this about Iran are from the same crowd, the same insanity." — Tweeted statement, January 2

Andrew Yang

"War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region."

Grace Segers
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Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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