Late Tuesday evening, Iranian forces launched 16 ballistic missiles in response to the killing of Iran general Qasem Soleimania at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, which houses both American and Iraqi military personnel. While state-sponsored Iranian news outlets have reported the deaths of 80 Americans, U.S. and Iraqi officials have reported zero casualties, as detailed further in President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday morning.
While no military countermeasures to the attack have been announced, Trump did say during his address that the United States would “immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,” and that those sanctions would “remain until Iran changes its behavior.”
Rep. Mark Green, who represents Williamson County in the House of Representatives as part of the Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, told the Home Page Wednesday that his “hopeful” interpretation of the attack was that Iran “did not intend to kill Americans,” and that it was “more of a show of force.”
Questions from the Home Page are paraphrased.
Home Page: What were your initial impressions on President Trump's address this morning?
Mark Green: My overall impression was very statesman like; he reiterated that our strategy has been and will continue to be this maximum pressure, but that at any point if Iran wants to talk, they can. He also very clearly communicated both implicitly, as well as explicitly, that strength matters, and you can't not stand up to people like this.
When you look at Iran's attack on Saudi Arabia, all the missiles hit - every single one of them - hit their target. And today, 15 missiles are launched and none of them hit. Some people think it wasn't necessarily intentional - I am a person hope, so I'm hopeful that maybe they intended not to kill any Americans.
They're not as self destructive as we thought they were, and then they turned right around immediately and said, ‘okay, we're done, this is it.’ So I think that's a potential open window, and I think President made it clear that he was open for negotiation. So I thought it was a great speech, and I'm excited about where we are today.
HP: So do you believe that perhaps this attack was more of a show of force, rather than an attack intended to cause American casualties?
MG: This is a society that respects strength, and so as the president shows strength, it also means that there's a flip side of the coin and that they have to be strong with their people or appear strong with their people. So I think their response… purely my interpretation is a hopeful one, that they did not intend to kill Americans and it was more of a show of force.
HP: Do you believe Trump’s decision to impose more economic sanctions on Iran to be an appropriate response?
MG: Well, I think the sanctions have worked. I think Iran's initial strategy was to try to convince Europe to get America back in [the Iran Deal]. That strategy failed because Trump is not backing down - when he makes a red line, he sticks to it, unlike the last administration. So I think what we saw last night may be the beginning of a new strategy.
HP: On Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament passed a non-binding vote to expel U.S. troops from the country in response to the killing of Soleimani. Given this, as well as the escalation between the U.S. and Iran, where do you see the presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East going from here?
MG: So first, let me address that issue of what Iraq really wants. First off, I do not believe that most Iraqi people want Americans out of there. They fully understand the counterterrorism support that we give them… I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that all the Shia militia want us gone. This was, again, I think, just face saving. I think it’s just a statement to appease people - they don’t want us to leave.
You certainly can’t leave in the face of this missile attack, because the propaganda back in Iran will be, ‘we made the Americans run.’ If you look back over history, after the Beirut Bombing - which was propagated by the Iranians - we pulled our Marines out of Lebanon, and that clearly indicated a message to the fundamentalists. When Bill Clinton pulled us out after Black Hawk Down in Somalia… Bin Laden even cited those instances when he wrote his big manifesto post-9/11, so we can’t just run away.
So we’re going to be there, we’re going to continue this maximum pressure, and let’s hope that Iran comes to the table.