'Are We At Risk Of Going To War? Absolutely,' Says Rep. Moulton On Iran

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Members of Massachusetts congressional delegation are voicing concern about the White House decision to assassinate Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the move a decisive defensive action against someone plotting to target Americans in the Middle East.

Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran, spoke to WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes about the assassination. He called Soleimani an "evil person with American blood on his hands." But he said the killing brings the U.S. closer to war with Iran.

"Are we at risk of going to war?" Moulton said. "Absolutely. More so than I've ever seen in my life."

Interview Highlights

Soleimani's killing creates more problems for the U.S.

It reminds me of being [deployed] in Najaf, Iraq, back in 2004. We also had an Iranian-backed governor. He was an evil man. Trust me, I wanted to kill him. But we made a calculated decision not to kill him because we thought it would create more unrest, create more insurgents and terrorists, than it would stop. So that's the concern here.

There's always a math in counterterrorism. Are you killing more than you're creating? What the Trump administration has done by killing Soleimani is unite Iranian hardliners, empower them at home. And my great concern is that at the end of the day, we'll be worse off than we are now.

The Trump administration is straying further from their stated goals

I don't think anyone in the Trump administration seems to get it, certainly not our commander in chief. No one has a plan for how to deal with this massive escalation. If you look at thee administration's stated policy with Iran, it's to do three things. It's to deter regional aggression. But they're escalating it. They're encouraging regional aggression from Iran. It's to stop their nuclear weapons program. But Iran has restarted their nuclear weapons program since the Trump administration shredded the deal. And finally, it's to bring Iran to the negotiating table. There's nothing that any administration has done to push them farther away [from that goal] than what they did last night.

He wants to know the plan going forward

I fundamentally want to hear what happens next. What's the strategy? This is clearly going to lead to an escalation. Iran has promised a retaliatory attack that could come tonight. It could come three years from now. It will be Iran's choice of timing and place. But what are our plans to defend against that? The administration has said that they want to withdraw troops from the Middle East. In the last few weeks, they've sent several hundred more troops to the Middle East. And yet they don't have any plan to deal with the massive evacuation that they've now called for of American personnel in Iraq. So this is chaos. This isn't a strategy, and it's certainly not a reasonable plan to end the war. 

On possible retaliation

It could be absolutely anything. They could try to assassinate an American leader, someone here at home in America, or abroad. They could attack American diplomats or troops overseas. It could be in the form of a terrorist attack. It could be a cyber attack. Iran has a very sophisticated cyber division that could well attack American citizens right here at home. We don't know what this will be or where it will come from. But if there's one thing I can trust that Iran says, is that it is that there will be a retaliatory attack on America.

This escalation against Iran distracts from other threats

In the grand scheme of things, our big threats today are Russia and China. This is just taking the eye off the ball. The more this administration focuses on their vendetta with Iran and further mires us in conflict in the Middle East, it's detracting from the long-term attention we need to give to the rise of China and the continued threat of Russia.

This article was originally published on January 03, 2020.

This segment aired on January 3, 2020.


Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.



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