Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a statement Jan. 8 after the Donald Trump administration briefed senators on the airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani.
In 2019, Carper opposed ending debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020 in an effort to secure a vote on his bipartisan amendment with Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico — the Prevent Unconstitutional War with Iran Act — which would prevent the Trump administration from taking military action against Iran without the approval of Congress. Carper, the only Vietnam veteran serving in the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly warned against war with Iran.
“It was welcome news this morning when we learned that there were no casualties following Iran’s ballistic missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops last night,” said Carper. “Like many of my colleagues and so many Americans, I hope that, after last night’s strike, we may finally be on a trajectory of de-escalation with Iran — after a week that saw tensions come far too close to boiling over. But when it comes to actions that could put the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk, it is crucial that we are dealing in fact.”
“This administration has implied that bringing us to the brink of war with Iran will give us an opportunity to finally bring Iran to the negotiating table,” said Carper. “They’ve claimed that, for 40 years, Iran was unwilling to engage with the U.S., but that, somehow, the bellicose actions and rhetoric the Trump administration has employed will bring about a diplomatic outcome where other administrations failed. But that ‘history’ lesson doesn’t square with reality.”
“The truth is that we secured a successful diplomatic outcome just four years ago with the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” said Carper. "This landmark agreement — carefully negotiated with our allies over years — kept the Iranian government ten years away from developing a nuclear weapon, and subjected the country to rigorous, intrusive and unprecedented quarterly inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And over the course of three years, the independent inspectors verified nearly 20 times in a row that Iran was in compliance with the agreement.”
“Just as there were some in the U.S. who opposed a deal with Iran, plenty of hardliners within the Iranian government — including extremists like Qassem Soleimani — fundamentally opposed any negotiations with the U.S.,” said Carper. “However, through strategic international sanctions and diplomacy, the Obama administration and our allies were able to successfully negotiate a deal that kept Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In the country’s parliamentary elections a year later, we saw moderate candidates make strong gains; the following year, moderates and reformists swept municipal elections across the country.”
“Those moderate voices have not disappeared,” said Carper. “Just over a month ago, Iranians took to the streets following a sudden hike in gas prices, in what quickly turned into widespread protests against the repressive regime. Rather than seizing the moment and using that internal political pressure as leverage to bring Iran to the table for diplomatic talks, the administration continued escalations with Iran — ultimately carrying out a strike that, for now, appears to have united moderates and hard-liners.”
“I am relieved that Iran chose the path of de-escalation last night, and I hope they will continue to do so,” said Carper. “But hope is not a strategy. As a result of the decisions of the Trump administration, Iran no longer has limits on its nuclear program, and the people of Iran have, for now, taken to the streets to rally behind the government and mourn General Soleimani. Because of our lack of strategy, in a matter of weeks, we have given the most extreme voices within the Iranian regime exactly what they wanted. I will remain optimistic that cooler heads prevail and that some long-term strategy emerges for the sake of our servicemembers and our security — but I fear that counting on that outcome may be the triumph of hope over experience.”