Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), a former national security advisor under President Obama, has spoken out against the strike on Soleimani, saying it significantly increased the risk to Americans in the Middle East, including military personnel.
It’s been less than a week since President Trump ordered the assasination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimaini at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq and the consequences are already being felt the world over.
Since Soleimani’s death, the Pentagon has deployed 3,500 additional soldiers to the Middle East, the U.S. State Department has urged American citizens to leave Iraq due to the potential of retaliation, the Iraqi Parliament has voted to expel American troops from the country, and Iran has announced it will no longer abide by the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program under the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump has also threatened to destroy dozens of Iranian cultural sites, which would constitute a war crime, while Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised to retaliate with a direct and proportional attack on American interests.
“We need to ensure the safety of Americans in the region and to take every measure to avoid the outbreak of war.”– Andy Kim
Iran did that Tuesday night, attacking American troops in Iraq with a barrage of missiles. No American troops were killed or injured in the attacks, and in a Wednesday morning address, President Trump said Iran “appears to be standing down which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
While tensions have eased for now, there is still growing concern that American service members in the region may be in danger.
Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) described Soleimani as a “murderer who has the blood of Americans and our allies on his hands,” but also said the strike on Soleimani has significantly increased the risk to Americans in the Middle East, including military personnel.
“The potential for severe retaliation from Iran and Iranian-backed forces is very real,” Kim said in a statement. “We need to ensure the safety of Americans in the region and to take every measure to avoid the outbreak of war.”
Kim’s district home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and service members from the 77th Sustainment Brigade, an Army Reserve unit headquartered at the Joint Base, are still believed to be in the Middle East, the Burlington County Times reported.
“Our community is home to tens of thousands of servicemen and women serving at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; when we go to war, it’s not just something that happens over there, it’s something that hits us right at home,” Kim told the Courier in an emailed statement.
In total, there are more than 30,000 active duty personnel stationed at the Joint Base, making it likely that local service members will be affected by the ongoing crisis with Iran.
While his immediate concern is the safety of American servicemembers, Kim also expressed fears about other consequences of the growing conflict.
In an interview with NJ.com, Kim said that the attack on Soleimani seems to have only emboldened Iranian hardliners and expressed concern that the escalating tensions could allow ISIS to regain its footing in the region, an outcome that would put Americans at further risk.
The Trump administration has said it killed Soleimani in response to an immediate threat to hundreds of American lives, but has failed to produce evidence to back up these claims, leading to skepticism from lawmakers, including Kim.
“What I need to hear and understand is, what was the intelligence leading up to this decision?,” Kim said during an interview with CNN.
Kim, a member of the House Armed Services committee, is uniquely positioned to comment on Soleimani’s death and the growing tensions with Iran. He previously served as a Strategic Advisor to Generals David Petraeus and John Allen in Afghanistan and later served as Director of Iraq Policy in President Obama’s National Security Council, where he tracked Soleimani and coordinated the crisis response to the growing power of ISIS.
Kim and fellow members of the House are expected to vote this week on a resolution limiting the president’s ability to attack Iran without prior approval from Congress.
Back in New Jersey, the base is already taking steps to protect service members in the wake of Soleimani’s death. Visitors to the base are now required to pass a criminal background check and have a form of government-issued identification to get on the base, officials announced Saturday.
The base has also suspended its Trusted Traveler Program until further notice, officials said on the base’s Facebook page. The program previously allowed those who possess valid identification cards issued by the Department of Defense to bring visitors onto the base.
“Any non-DoD ID card individuals who do not have a valid form of ID or have a questionable criminal record will be denied access to the installation,” the statement said.
While war remains far from a guarantee, neither the U.S. nor Iran is backing down, a stand-off that has Kim increasingly concerned about the safety of Americans, including service members in his district.
“The Trump Administration owes the men and women from the Joint Base in my district, and their families at home, a clear strategic plan for how he’ll make Americans more safe, and assurances that we will not be led into another war without reason or end,” Kim said
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify Kim’s remarks.