Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, one of the most hawkish members of Congress, urged the Trump administration to order a military strike against Iran overagainst oil tankers in the Middle East — a move he said will send the government in Tehran a message that the U.S. will not stand idle as commercial shipping is threatened.
"These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike," Cotton said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
Cotton said President Trump has broad authority to sign-off on military operations that "defend American interests." He said last week'sin the Gulf of Oman — which the U.S. has accused Iran of staging — represent a scenario in which the president can use his powers as commander in chief to respond.
"The fastest way to get the fire and fury of the U.S. military unleashed on you is to interfere with the freedom of navigation on the open seas and in the air. That's exactly what Iran is doing in one of the world's most important strategic choke points," he said.
Citing U.S. intelligence, Trump administration officials have singled out Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — a powerful military outfit which the State Department considers a terrorist group — as being responsible for the attacks, which left one vessel ablaze in the widely transited waterway.
Earlier on "Face the Nation," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was weighing a— including a military operation — to respond to the attacks.
Asked about concerns among the public and lawmakers that hardliners like national security adviser John Bolton might be pushing the U.S. on the brink of war with faulty intelligence like the one cited in the prelude of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Cotton said said the two events are "very different things."
"In 2002, our intelligence agencies, just like every Western intelligence agency, was trying to assess the state of a weapons of mass destruction program, one of the things that states worked the hardest to keep secret," he said, referring to the early assessment by the Bush administration that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein had built a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction — which, despite being the main talking point the administration used to defend the invasion in front of the public and international community, turned out to be inaccurate.
Now, however, Cotton said concrete evidence implicates Iran in the oil tanker attacks.
"There's really not much to assess right here. Everybody can see with their own two eyes, those Iranian sailors going up to a ship and taking a mine off of it," he said, referring to a U.S. surveillance video released after the attacks.