Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the closure of his ‘reign of terror’ in the Middle East. Thune is hopeful that the United States’ action will deter future attempts by the rogue nation to sow discord in the region.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, many of us here in the Senate thought we would be opening the new year with an impeachment trial.
“But that’s not what’s happening this week, because the Senate is still waiting for Speaker Pelosi to actually send over the articles of impeachment.
“Democrats rushed impeachment through the House, throwing fairness and due process to the winds in their haste to impeach the president.
“But now they’re apparently content to just sit on the articles of impeachment for the foreseeable future.
“Mr. President, if Democrats really believe this impeachment is a serious matter, that there’s literally a “crime spree in progress,” as they’ve claimed, they would have already sent over the articles.
“But the truth is, Democrats’ impeachment efforts, which basically started before the president had even taken the oath of office, have been politically motivated from the start.
“Democrats thought they could damage the president politically by rushing to impeach him, and now they think that they can damage the president politically by stalling a trial.
“Speaker Pelosi is also attempting to force the Senate to conduct the trial she would like it to conduct, in hopes of getting the outcome she would prefer – demonstrating once again the fundamentally political nature of Democrats’ impeachment quest.
“Here in the Senate, we’ll continue working on the business of governing until the speaker decides she’s ready to stop playing games.
“Mr. President, on Friday we learned that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani had been killed in a U.S. airstrike.
“Iran’s terrorist activities throughout the Middle East are well-known.
“Iran is a key backer of Hamas and Hezbollah and has fomented conflict throughout the Middle East – escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, fueling civil war in Yemen, and supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime.
“At the end of December, the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, or KH, fired more than 30 rockets at an Iraqi military base, killing an American contractor and wounding four U.S. troops.
“Days later, Iran-backed protestors stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, conducting a two-day siege of the embassy before withdrawing – although not without setting fire to parts of the embassy’s exterior.
“The list of Iranian terror activities is long.
“And at the center of all these activities has been General Qassem Soleimani.
“As head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Soleimani has been masterminding Iran’s terrorist activities for two decades.
“Iran has been linked to one in six U.S. military deaths in Iraq, notably through the IEDs that have become so emblematic of the war on terror.
“This was Soleimani’s work.
“He is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and thousands of innocent civilians throughout the Middle East.
“And it is a good thing that his reign of terror is over.
“Mr. President, while I hope we can all agree that Soleimani was a just target, there are naturally questions about the timing of the strike and what options were laid before President Trump.
“The Senate will be briefed tomorrow, and I hope my colleagues and I will be given a clearer intelligence picture of the imminent and significant threat Secretary of State Pompeo and other administration officials have described.
“Soleimani’s death provides Iran with an opportunity to change course – to rethink its participation in terrorist activities throughout the Middle East and its aggression against the United States.
“Unfortunately, Iran doesn’t seem ready to take that opportunity, and there are rightfully concerns about how Iran might retaliate for Soleimani’s death.
“Iran has vowed “severe revenge,” but I hope Iran’s leaders recognize that the U.S. will not tolerate Iran’s aggressions.
“The United States is obviously closely monitoring any Iranian response or escalation, from attempted cyberattacks to threats against U.S. troops or citizens or our allies.
“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, has cautioned that there remains a significant risk, and we have seen the Department of Defense and the State Department adjust their postures accordingly.
“As I said, with Soleimani’s removal, Iran has the opportunity to change course.
“In both Iran and Iraq, we have seen protests bravely displaying the desire for a new way forward and – in the case of Iraq – for freedom from Iran’s malign influence.
“But the path to that new day is a difficult one.
“Soleimani’s decades of work building terrorist networks will not easily be undone.
“And his replacement has already been named and has vowed revenge.
“In addition, under pressure from Iran, Iraq’s parliament advanced a nonbinding resolution calling for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
“I hope that cooler heads will prevail in Iraq and that we can come to an agreement that upholds our mutual security interests and is beneficial to both the United States and the people of Iraq.
“We’ve invested a lot in regional security efforts that we should see through.
“And as we know all too well from the rise of ISIS, the consequences of leaving a power vacuum can be dire.
“I hope that power vacuum will not be resurrected as the U.S. suspends counter-ISIS operations in order to defend our installations.
“Mr. President, the world may enjoy a degree of closure with the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
“Citizens of the Middle East who suffered at the hand of Soleimani’s terror may have hope for a safer future.
“But this will require the Iranian regime to recognize the opportunity it now has to rid itself of Soleimani’s agenda and chart a new course.
“Iran’s leadership knows full well the consequences of maintaining its vendetta against America, our allies, and those who seek to live in peace and freedom.
“It got a preview of our military and intelligence capabilities last week.
“This is not a call for escalation, but a frank acknowledgment that the U.S. will stand resolutely against those who threaten American lives.
“While the initial reaction from Iran has not been promising, I hope that General Soleimani’s death will encourage Iran to think carefully before it proceeds any further on its path of terror.
“And I look forward to talking with the defense secretary, the CIA director, and others tomorrow about what we need to minimize the threat of retaliation and keep Americans and our allies safe.”