Members of Maine’s congressional delegation described the chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force as a “terrorist,” an “evil man,” “a ruthless enemy of America” and a “serious threat,” but also expressed concern that his killing would increase risks to Americans.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed Friday in a targeted drone strike in Iraq ordered by President Trump.

“Soleimani was a terrorist, and a chief architect of Iran’s efforts to undermine regional security and the safety of American service members and diplomats serving abroad,” said Sen. Angus King, an independent and member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees, in a written statement.

“Indeed, he was responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans and thousands of others in the region – there is no doubt that he was a force of evil. At the same time, last night’s attack leaves us with one important question: how does this impact our strategic objectives in the region?”

“In the short term, I am concerned this could bring about violent reprisals from Iran and their partners that will place Americans working or serving in the region in increased danger; in the long-term, the rapidly rising escalation between our two nations could lead to dangerous and bloody consequences,” King said.

Sen. Susan Collins, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement late Friday that she was briefed on the attack by Vice President Mike Pence, who said Soleimani “directly ordered the recent attacks on the U.S. embassy, and he was planning additional attacks against Americans in the Middle East.”

“This action does risk further military escalation, and given those risks, Congress must not be sidelined. The administration must quickly brief Congress on all available intelligence and its strategy to protect American citizens and service members against Iran,” Collins said.

Rep. Chellie Pingree called Soleimani an “evil man whose death we do not mourn,” but Maine’s 1st District congresswoman also said his killing escalates conflicts with Iran. Pingree said she worries that the strike moves the country “closer to a senseless war without the consent of Congress.” Iran already has vowed to retaliate.

“We need steady, disciplined leadership at this critical time,” Pingree said in a written statement. “The president must de-escalate the conflict with Iran, have a concrete plan to protect Americans in the region, and engage with Congress going forward.”

And Rep. Jared Golden, a former Marine who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, said “it remains to be seen whether this strike is in the long-term national security interests of our country.” He also criticized the president for trying to have it both ways when it comes to the Middle East.

“While his administration sends additional troops to the Middle East, the president continues to promise Americans that he will end what he calls ‘ridiculous’ wars in the region and bring our service members home,” Golden said in a statement. “By promising the American people to reduce our footprint in the Middle East while simultaneously increasing military pressure against Iran, the president undermines both positions. ”

In justifying the attack, the Defense Department said in a statement that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” He has led the Quds Force since 1998 and was the mastermind of Iranian military operations in Iraq and Syria.

One longtime former diplomat who served as deputy assistant secretary of state and State Department director for Iran and Iraq from 2001-2003 said Friday that it’s too early to make an assessment on the attack because all the facts are not known and the administration deserves the benefit of the doubt for now.

David Pearce, who now lives in Yarmouth, said Soleimani was indeed a villain to the U.S. and many others, but was regarded as a war hero in his country.

“He was a pillar of the regime leadership and wielded immense power and influence – more than the foreign minister, or the prime minister, more even than the president,” Pearce said. “He reported directly to the Supreme Leader. So this was more than the equivalent of assassinating one of our top generals (such as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff).”

Although Trump said at a news conference Friday that the U.S. took the action to stop a war, not start one, there were widespread concerns about how Iran will retaliate.

Pearce called it a “virtual certainty” that Iran will respond in some fashion.

“The killing of Soleimani will be taken as an outright act of war by the United States against Iran,” he said. “Killing such a high-level official in their government would, in their minds, make similar action by them fair game.

“But I do not expect them to be impulsive. They believe the dish of revenge is best served cold. The Persians play chess, not chicken. They will take their time, and think multiple moves ahead. As they do, they will have a large menu of options to choose from and proxy forces to use.”

So far, Republicans have mostly praised Trump’s actions while Democrats have expressed concerns over retaliation. Some have suggested that Trump should have sought approval from Congress, or at least engaged with the so-called Gang of 8 congressional leaders.

The Senate voted in June on a measure to ban unauthorized military attacks on Iran or its armed forces. The measure failed but both King and Collins supported it.


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