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GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger Says Soleimani Assassination Was The Right Move


Here's what happened overnight at the airport in Baghdad. An aircraft landed, and an Iranian general climbed out, General Qassem Soleimani. He met with an Iraqi counterpart, a deputy, in two cars somewhere near the plane from which he had just descended. And then several rockets struck. They came from a United States drone overhead. President Trump has said he ordered that killing. We're hearing responses to this all morning. And right now, Representative Adam Kinzinger joins us. He's a Republican from Illinois. Congressman, welcome to the program.

ADAM KINZINGER: Thank you. Good to be here.

INSKEEP: Was this attack the right thing to do?

KINZINGER: You know, I think it was. If you really look at what's been going on, really, for 30 years but especially in the last year, there have been Iranian provocations, Iranian attacks. And the U.S. has never responded, with the exception of below the threshold of violent actions, like cyberattacks or whatever. With what we've been seeing with the killing of an American contractor, attacks on American bases all around the region - we went after the guy leading that. I think it was the right move. We have to be prepared for Iran to respond, but an Iranian response is the next step. It's not all we've been doing is responding to their continued provocations. I think that's an important thing to note.

INSKEEP: When you say we have to be prepared for Iran to respond, what kind of response are you prepared for mentally yourself?

KINZINGER: Well, whatever it is - you know, there's any number of options. I don't like delineating what those options are. You know, obviously, they have some things at their toolbox. But let's keep in mind something else.

INSKEEP: Well, let me just break in for a second because this is why I'm asking that question. I suppose if you're thinking through this series of events where Iran does something - the U.S. does something - Iran does something else, and now the U.S. has killed Qassem Soleimani - you have to ask yourself or say to yourself, I suppose, I don't think Iran is going to go to full-scale war on this. Or maybe you have to say, I am willing for the United States to go to war over this if it gets to that point. Which of those points of view is yours?

KINZINGER: Well, I don't think they're going to. But you also have to be willing to to deter. A lack of the ability to go to war or the will to go to war is what leads to continued provocations 'cause we have not responded. In your statement there, you said Iran does something - we do something - Iran does something. Then we kill - we haven't done anything. This is actually the real first attack against Iran. We didn't kill 100 people around an air defense site. Instead, we went after the man himself that's destabilized the region. So yes, there could be a response. It is the danger, and it is the nature of world conflict. But I think the thing to keep in mind in all of this is that the United States has shown extreme calm, extreme patience in this. And we finally went after a guy that we all should be celebrating as dead while understanding that this isn't necessarily the end. But also keep in mind - Israel many times strikes Iran with no response from Iran because they know what the response would be from the U.S. or Israel if they do.

INSKEEP: You are correct that the United States had not launched this kind of kinetic, as they say, attack directly against an Iranian official. But as you yourself noted, the United States has applied pressure in various ways on Iran. And the larger context here is the U.S. pulling out of a nuclear deal and engaging in what it calls maximum pressure against Iran to isolate it and end its oil exports and bring down its economy. Do you see that as a strategy that is likely to work?

KINZINGER: I think in the long term, yes. And keep in mind the Iranian deal would be about halfway expired already by now. So based on the time we were in it to that time again, they would be out of it with very little, if no constraints. And so I think in the long run, you know, when they took the money that they got from the deal, didn't invest it in Iran - that's why the Iranian people are on the streets protesting against the government - and instead invested it in these foreign forays into Lebanon, into Syria. Half a million dead Syrians because they upheld the government. We can see that that wasn't the right deal. We can get to a better one. But it's got to include behavior in the region.

INSKEEP: How would you answer a critique by Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who's been on the program today, who said the administration's approach is all tactics, no strategy? Responding to things the Iranians do, pressuring Iran. But it's not clear how it's all supposed to work out in the end.

KINZINGER: Well, I think there is a deeper strategy in terms of that maximum pressure campaign. But in terms of this Soleimani money attack, it depends - you know, was this something that we'd been planning for a month? Was it something that was a target of an opportunity, knowing that there were future attacks planned? The guy was in Iraq, by the way, right after this embassy takeover - embassy attack, I guess - and after the attack on the base. So look - Chris Murphy. I like him personally. We have a very different view on this. And I think when you have a situation where there's impending attacks - and whether that was going to happen in a day or two days, we know that Soleimani was behind what had happened so far. It seems like the right move. We'll see what happens in the long run.

INSKEEP: Senator Murphy also said this attack in itself would be justified if, in fact, as the administration says, there was intelligence indicating an imminent attack. Murphy is completely fine with attacking in that instance. Do you want to see that intelligence yourself?

KINZINGER: Yeah. I'd like to see it for sure. And, you know, anytime we can see something like that it's good as long as it doesn't reveal methods, put anybody at risk. And this administration, generally, on these things has been pretty good about calling Congress together and sharing what they can. So I expect that'll be coming.

INSKEEP: Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thanks so much.

KINZINGER: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.