Sen. Reed says calling off Iran strike was ‘correct decision’

JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to our top story,
the Trump administration’s response to Iran shooting down an American drone. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island,
is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. He was one of the lawmakers who the White
House briefed on the administration’s options for dealing with Iran. I spoke with him earlier, and started by asking
if President Trump was right to call off the strike on Iran. SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): I think he made a correct
decision, because, as he indicated, it would be disproportionate. We lost an expensive drone, but without any
casualties. To inflict up to 100 casualties in an attack
in Iraq — excuse me — in Iran would, I think, have been not the appropriate response. JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think any alternative
would have been? And was Congress being notified? SEN. JACK REED: Well, the president called together
the leaders of Congress yesterday, and didn’t indicate any specific plan, indicated he had
a range of plans. But he did listen to our concerns, and I made
it — my point is that we have to be very cautious here, because the — any action against
Iran could be reciprocated by asymmetric attacks across the region, from Afghanistan to Lebanon. So we have to be very careful. There are things that we can and should do. We have to insist on the ability to fly in
international airspace. Our drone was in international airspace. That could have been demonstrated by a multinational
flight of fighter aircraft or other aircraft. We have to maintain navigational waters. We could have done that, again, hopefully
in a multinational fashion. And then we can take other covert means to
indicate that we are not going to accept the downing of one of our drones. JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have any concerns that
the U.S. looks indecisive or weak because of this on/off-again move on the part of the
administration? SEN. JACK REED: I think that, if it could be done
over again, rather than, at the last moment, calling off the strike, if it could have been
sort of eliminated from the list of options previously, and pursued other less kinetic
options, then we wouldn’t have been in this predicament of a last-minute sort of cancellation
based upon the sudden legalization of the casualties that would result. But I think that, again, more careful thought,
more deliberate thought about alternatives that are very proportional and alternatives
that recognize that there could be likely reciprocation by the Iranians to any type
of particular kinetic strike within Iran, that consensus should be in place. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Do you think — you mentioned the negotiation. Is that possible, though, with the kind of
maximum pressure campaign the administration has undertaken? SEN. JACK REED: Well, I think the maximum pressure
campaign has resulted in significant depredations in Iran in terms of their economy, but it’s
also prompting some of these much more hostile actions in the region and I think, perhaps
unwittingly, the attack on the drone. So we’re getting into this dangerous territory. I think it would be good to rethink this maximum
pressure campaign, to see if there’s an avenue and a series of areas in which we can have
some discussions, maybe through third parties. JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Senator, I just want
to ask you to step back and look at what happened, how this decision was made. What does it say about military decisions
that have to get made one way or another at a time we don’t have a confirmed secretary
of defense? We know there are disagreements between the
president and some of his senior advisers. SEN. JACK REED: Well, I think it shows that there’s
not a thorough process. And some of that might be a function not only
of the difficult administrative predicament of not having a confirmed secretary of defense. Some of it might be the National Security
Council is not functioning as a kind of neutral arbiter for opinions, but they are more focused
on the position that Ambassador Bolton seems to embrace of maximum pressure and maximum
effect against Iran. And it also might be a function of the president’s
kind of approach, which is not going into the full detail until it appears, at the last
moment, when he recognized that this would be a serious attack with as much as 100 or
150 casualties, at a minimum. So I think it’s a function of all of these
things, but the first thing that can and should be done is get in place a confirmed team at
the Department of Defense, and then also look very carefully at the decision-making process,
so that, when the president gets options, everything’s on the table, including the potential
casualties in any type of military operation. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Jack Reed, the ranking
member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, thank you. SEN. JACK REED: Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *