Senator Lankford Addresses US Tension with Iran on Senate Floor
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s floor speech.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today expressed continued support for the Iranian people who are actively protesting their tyrannical regime in the streets of Iran. Lankford spoke at length about the threat the US faced from Soleimani and the need for decisive action earlier this month to take him down to prevent another attack on US personnel and facilities abroad. During his speech Lankford addressed the need for continued Middle East diplomacy to counter the Iranian regime’s increasingly aggressive behavior. This floor speech follows a resolution Lankford cosponsored last week to honor our military and national security personnel in their diligent work to take out Soleimani and to cripple his vast network.
As we go back through the calendar just a few months and get some context of what’s been building for a while, in May of 2019, four different vessels that were traveling just outside the Gulf of Oman were hit by mines. Just a few months later two more vessels hit Iranian mines. They were actually placed on the ship. In June of 2019, US Navy surveillance drone was flying through the Strait of Hormuz and was downed by an Iranian missile attack. As we continue to move forward, we tracked an increase in Iranian activity in cyber-attacks. At the same time, individuals at our military bases in Iraq were facing more and more of a push against them in not just an external conversation, an actual attack.
Our supply lines in the fall of last year as trucks that were leaving out from Baghdad driving down to Kuwait for supply lines there were increasingly facing improvised explosive devices, something we had not seen in a long time. Those explosive devices were placed by Shia militias. In October there were multiple attacks on our facility in Baghdad. In November there are multiple attacks again on our facility in Baghdad. In December, there were multiple attacks again, each time increasing more and more attacks. We heard that term “attack,” and it seems almost flippant and realize for the thousands of Americans in that area in that diplomatic mission that’s there in Iraq, for the thousands of Americans that’s there, there’s a day that happens, it could be the middle of the night, it could be the middle of the afternoon, but a moment happens month after month, week after week and sometimes day after day where the sirens go off and everyone on campus runs into a bomb shelter and then the explosions begin around grounds.
These were not just random attacks. These were designed, kinetic, rocket attacks coming into our Embassy that built up towards an attack on the United States Embassy on December 31st where thousands of people broke through the outer section, setting fires to building, attacking the facility, smashing against the glass trying to be able to get into the next layer that they were not able to penetrate into the inner layer in the embassy, but thousands and thousands of rioters, they were moving towards the base. And as calm was restored on the outside, and the security perimeter was established on the outside. They could read what was written on the walls spray painted now on the embassy, “Soleimani is our leader.”
I was interested to be able to talk to a friend of mine just a couple of weekends ago. He made an interesting comment to me. He said, “I didn’t know who Qasem Soleimani was. I had never heard that name before. And then I went back and started doing some research to be able to find out who this guy is and what he’s all about.” And his comment to me was, “I did some research and found out he’s a bad guy.” And I said, “Yeah, you don’t know the half of it.”
Qasem Soleimani is the leader of the Quds Force for the Iranians was responsible for training the Shia militias in Iraq on how to kill Americans. Over 600 Americans died because of the training and equipping that Soleimani did for the Iraqis that were fighting against us at that time. Specifically the Shia militias that Soleimani actually directed. My neighbor was surprised to be able to learn that Soleimani is the one who actually organizes all things with Hezbollah and Lebanon. He organizes Hezbollah also in Iraq. That he is the one who is coordinating all that is happening in Yemen in the civil war that’s currently ongoing in Yemen. He was surprised to be able to see he was in Syria working with Bashar al-Assad and to be able to see all that he’s doing for that ruthless leader that murdered thousands of his own people. That’s Soleimani. And for those of us that are tracking the direct threats against the United States, we’re very aware of who he is and what he was all about because he was the point person to try to take the fight to the United States. And in the past six months that fighting had gone from a, “I’m going to try to find individuals in Hezbollah or Shia militia somewhere to attack the United States to being more strategic to bringing the attack directly from his forces under his command to try to take the attack to us. He had become more and more overt and more and more obsessed with attacking the United States.
Over the course of that time period, the Trump Administration had over and over again sent a message to the Iranian leadership. “You are playing a very dangerous game, continually attacking American facilities, launching rockets randomly, and starting fires, stirring up militias to attack us at every turn, attack our supply lines. If an American is killed, President Trump made it very clear the United States will respond. And in December Soleimani pushed it to a whole new level with a multiple-rocket attack into an American facility, killing an American, wounding four others. The President responded with a very reasoned response, taking the attack to where the Shia militias and Hezbollah were storing their munitions that they were using to attack us, destroying that facility, destroying those munitions they went to the facilities where they were equipping the people to bring the attack to us. But then also carefully tracking the person planning the next set of attacks, Soleimani himself.
When the time came in January, when Soleimani had been traveling through Syria, through Lebanon, working with Hezbollah, and then back into Iraq, and he was personally meeting with another terrorist leader in Iraq. One terrorist leader, Soleimani, leading a terrorist organization, leading with another terrorist, leading another organization there. Both of them were planning together, met up that morning at the airport, and a little after four in the morning, they left out from the airport headed in to go have their next meeting for planning their next set of attacks. At that time the Trump Administration took the opportunity while they were both far from civilians and no one else was on the road to be able to have a surgical strike to be able to take out two different terrorist leaders both in the process of planning their next attacks.
Now what’s been interesting to me is the response of the United States Senate and the United States House and some of the debate there. We should debate issues like this. These are difficult moments and difficult days. We are not at war with Iran, nor should we be at war with Iran. There are millions of peaceful people in Iran. Thousands and thousands of those are protesting on the streets right now in Iran against their own government. They are furious at the corruption in that government. They are furious that the people in Iran can’t get food and can’t get fuel because the regime there is spending their money attacking Yemen, attacking Syria, feeding money to Hezbollah in Iraq, feeding money to Hezbollah in Lebanon. And the money that should be going to be able to help their own people, the Iranian regime is sending out over the region to spur their terrorism.
So the people there are frustrated and upset with their own government, and they are taking it to the street under threat of their own life. And in the not-too-recent past, Iranians were the Green Revolution, ten years ago and in months past had taken to the streets by thousands and some of them have faced all kinds of retribution coming back at them. We should be supporting the good people of Iran who are miserable living under that regime. We’re not at war with the people of Iran, but we are very clear as a nation when you are planning an attack against us and we’re aware of that attack and you’ve shown the due diligence to take prior attacks, we know you’re not just thinking about it, you’re actually planning and actually about to carry it out. We have learned our lesson from 9/11, and for the last three administrations, the policy has been very clear: if we know you’re in the process going of bringing an attack to us in the days and weeks ahead, we will strike first to protect American lives. We will not wait until you kill Americans to come bring the strike to you. That’s what happened to Soleimani.
The debate that’s happening on the floor now about a War Powers Resolution is interesting because much of the language affirms the law. It seems to imply the Trump Administration didn’t follow the law when they did. The Trump Administration continued to track an imminent threat that was coming at the United States. There’s been some argument about “how imminent is imminent?” Some of my colleagues want to know that Soleimani was in the process of carrying out an attack within the next 30 minutes, and if he wasn’t carrying out an attack immediately like in the next day or the next hours, we shouldn’t respond. I would tell you that intelligence is not that exquisite. You only know in the movies that someone’s about to attack an exact spot, an exact time. That’s not real life. Real-life intelligence, you gather information to be able to track what you think is coming, but you don’t get exact dates and exact locations like that. But we knew he was planning this attack. And they were zeroing in on the locations, but they were very specific on the Americans that he was coming after. To be able to bring the attack to him and then to notify Congress within 48 hours, which is the law, is consistent with the War Powers Resolution. So the president did follow the law. He was justified in being able to carry out the strike against a known, declared terrorist leader, in fact two of them, in the process of planning their next attack against Americans.
But the key thing that I join my colleagues in talking about is not trying to be able to press back on the Administration. It’s to say none of us want a war with Iran, including the Trump Administration. And every conversation I’ve had with anyone in the Administration, they’ve all been very clear. They’re not planning a war with Iran. They don’t want a war with Iran, but they do want Iran to stop their belligerent terrorist activities against us, against our allies, and against any American they seem to find in the region. So I join my colleagues in warning Iran and assuring Iran at the same time, we have no desire for a war with the regime or with the good people of Iran. We should be able to find a way to be able to work together. Since 1979 and this regime coming into power, they have taken the fight to Americans and to all of our allies. And it’s time we push back and say stop shedding blood, and let’s sit down at the table and be able to work this out.
In the meantime, let’s don’t assume that Soleimani was some innocent bystander. He had a lot of American blood on his hands. Let’s take into real life what it really means to be—to live in Baghdad and serve a diplomatic mission and run shelters as rockets are reigning down on your facility. There’s plenty of provocation. Now it’s time for diplomacy. Let’s get this worked out.