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Republican hawks call for retaliation after 3 killed in Iranian-backed strike

Calls for retaliation began pouring in from Republican members of Congress moments after U.S. Central Command revealed Sunday that three U.S. service members were killed Saturday night at an American base in Jordan in a drone attack launched by Iranian-backed militias.

“It is time to act with purpose and resolve in response to attacks that have tragically taken the lives of American service members and injured scores more,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee said in a statement.

“We must respond to these repeated attacks by Iran and its proxies by striking directly against Iranian targets and its leadership. … It is time to act swiftly and decisively for the whole world to see.”

Some of Wicker’s fellow Senate Republicans made similar statements.

“The Biden Administration can take out all the Iranian proxies they like, but it will not deter Iranian aggression. I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran, not only as reprisal for the killing of our forces, but as deterrence against future aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) made a similar call: “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) initially didn’t mince words: “Target Tehran,” he posted, before later clarifying that it was not a call to bomb Iranian civilians.

“America must send a crystal clear message across the globe that attacks on our troops will not be tolerated,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said.

The tragedy, Majority Leader Steve Scalise posted, “was avoidable.”

“For years now Biden has emboldened Iran — sending them billions & tolerating their aggression against our troops. America must show strength,” the No. 2 House Republican said.

The House Intelligence Committee has requested a briefing on the situation in Jordan, according to a person familiar with the request.

“It’s long past time for President Biden to finally hold the terrorist Iranian regime and their extremist proxies accountable for the attacks they’ve carried out against U.S. and coalition forces,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee said in a statement.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, said he was “heartbroken” for the service members who were killed and urged the Biden administration to rapidly respond.

“We must hold those responsible accountable for this unjustifiable attack, and take further steps to protect our personnel in the region. I expect the Intelligence Committee will receive additional information on those efforts this week,” Himes said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called for action that would cripple not just the organizations carrying out the attacks, but “their Iranian sponsors who wear American blood as a badge of honor,” as well.

“The time to start taking this aggression seriously was long before more brave Americans lost their lives,” McConnell said in a statement.

In a statement Sunday, President Joe Biden said the U.S. knew the Saturday attack “was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” and pledged to “hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing.”

The president added: “Jill and I join the families and friends of our fallen — and Americans across the country—in grieving the loss of these warriors in this despicable and wholly unjust attack. These service members embodied the very best of our nation.” Both Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed Sunday that the lethal attack would not go unanswered. “We will take all necessary actions,” Austin said.

Former President Donald Trump blasted Biden’s leadership, and claimed the attack never would’ve happened had he still been in the White House.

“This terrible day is yet more proof that we need an immediate return to PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH, so that there will be no more chaos, no more destruction, and no more loss of precious American lives,” Trump said in a statement.

Several Republican members of Congress also slammed Biden, tying his handling of the Middle East to the attacks — and demanding revenge be sought against the attackers.

“Biden’s failure to isolate the regime in [Iran], defeat Hamas, & support our strategic partners has emboldened the enemies of freedom,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) posted on X Sunday. “The President’s MidEast policy is a total disaster. And now our men & women are paying the price — with their lives.”

“3 patriots died while 25 more were injured,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) wrote. “Joe Biden has emboldened Iran and shown weakness on the global stage. We have to have a stronger Commander-in-Chief.”

Saturday’s attacks, which also left 25 injured, marked the first time American troops have been killed in months of attacks on U.S. forces across the Middle East. Since October, there have been over 158 attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Syria, though so far they have caused only minor injuries and damage to infrastructure.

Last week, the U.S. carried out attacks on Iran-backed targets in Iraq, targeting three facilities used by the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, in response to an earlier attack by the group that injured U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday that she and her husband Doug Emhoff were mourning the lives lost in the attack, and she similarly promised to “hold those responsible to account.”

“Our prayers are with their loved ones and those injured. … Our entire nation will forever honor these warriors, their service, and their ultimate sacrifice,” she posted on X. “As @POTUS has made clear, we will continue to fight terrorism, and we will hold all those responsible to account.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he was “heartbroken and outraged,” by the deaths.

“Every single malignant actor responsible must be held accountable,” he said on X, echoing Biden and Harris.

Rep. Dean Phillips, who is mounting a quixotic presidential primary challenge to Biden, cautioned that inaction could make the situation worse.

“Iranian proxies continue to provoke and kill Americans. Hamas kidnapped eight Americans and has held them hostage for over three months. If this continues to be tolerated, it will only get worse,” Phillips said on X.

Others also offered their condolences to the families of those who were killed.

“We mourn the deaths of the three service members killed by a drone attack in Jordan from an Iran-backed militant group,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “We must work to hold those responsible accountable.”

“I’m horrified by the deaths of 3 brave American servicemembers who were killed by a drone attack in Jordan. I’m also praying for the safety of the dozens who were injured,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) wrote. “My heart is with the families of those killed and injured.”

“My heart is shattered after news that three U.S. servicemembers were killed and dozens wounded from an attack launched by proxies of Iran’s regime,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-N.V.) posted. “We will never forget their bravery, valor, and service to our nation. Iran must be held accountable.”

Erin Banco, Anthony Adragna, Joe Gould, Joseph Gedeon and Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

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Author: POLITICO