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Kinzinger after closed-door briefing: 'This was the right move'

Congressman defends U.S. strike on Iranian general

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said he is convinced more than ever after sitting in on a closed-door briefing on the Iran situation Wednesday that President Donald Trump's administration was justified in killing Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani.

"This was the right move to save American lives on an imminent basis, and they did the right thing," Kinzinger, R-Channahon, said on a Fox News program Wednesday.

The U.S. and Iran stepped back from possible war Wednesday as Trump signaled he would not retaliate militarily for Iran's missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. No one was injured in the strikes, but U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert, according to the Associated Press.

"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said.

While Democrats and some Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with the administration's justifications for the drone strike on Soleimani — including Republican Sen. Mike Lee, of Utah, who said it was “probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate" — Kinzinger, a member of the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, was not one of them.

Kinzinger said the opposite.

"In the 10 years of being here, that was the most revealing classified brief we've had in a large setting like that in terms of what they revealed," Kinzinger said on Fox News. "What's amazing to me, actually one of my biggest annoyances, is as the Democrats came up to talk about it, they just couldn't take yes or no, whatever it is for an answer, because I think they've invested in their position on this strike before even knowing the intelligence, and therefore, could not be convinced."

Lee and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, announced their support of a largely symbolic war powers resolution to limit Trump's military action regarding Iran.

Dani Brzozowski, a LaSalle Democrat and Kinzinger's political challenger come November, said Trump's actions "compromised the integrity of our foreign policy, carelessly put innocent lives at risk, and jump-started a conflict that needed no escalation." She said Soleimani was a villain, but his death "created more, not less conflict."

On Twitter Wednesday, Brzozowski called Kinzinger "a poster child for proud, happy warmongering."

"Rep. Adam Kinzinger is zealous in his defense of the president’s attack, though he acknowledges no end game," Brzozowski said in a press statement earlier Wednesday. "This path of vengeance leads only to additional violence and deaths and implicates our troops in the exact kind of pointless wars the president ran on bringing to an end. I hope Adam Kinzinger is right, that the escalation of the current conflict with Iran doesn’t, ultimately, lead to war." 

She said Trump's actions were an insignificant blow to the Iranian government’s military capabilities while strengthening anti-American sentiment and inflaming tensions "that are already disastrously high."

During another Fox News appearance, Kinzinger said the wake of Tuesday's bombing was an opportunity to walk back "from this cliff Iran has brought us to," but he said U.S. troops leaving Iraq would be what Iran wanted.

He also disagreed with sentiments the U.S. was at fault for the conflict. Kinzinger said there were demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon against Iranian involvement that led to Soleimani's attacks, which led to the U.S. response. Last week, Iranian-backed militia besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Tehran’s proxies in the region remain able to carry out attacks such as the one on Dec. 27 that killed a U.S. contractor and set off the most recent round of hostilities, according to the Associated Press.

"Anyone who says the United States is escalating, doesn't know the region, doesn't know their history, even the recent history," Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger also continued to say he was disappointed by the political rhetoric during the bombing in Iraq, criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted she was monitoring the situation following the bombings, that the nation should ensure the safety of its service members and "end needless provocations from the administration."

"This was wrong, at the time when Americans are having missiles raining down on them, we should actually rally around the flag," Kinzinger said. "There's a whole lot of time for politics. We have a whole year up to the election."

Brzozowski called the administration's reaction political in nature.

"The assassination of Soleimani could have been a tactical action by the Trump administration years ago; the urgency here was manufactured for political reasons, not undertaken to protect the American people," she said.

Hours after Trump spoke Wednesday, an "incoming" siren went off in Baghdad's Green Zone after what seemed to be small rockets "impacted" the diplomatic area, a Western official said. There were no reports of casualties.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that it was “perhaps too early to tell” if Iran will be satisfied that the missile strikes were sufficient to avenge the Soleimani killing, according to an Associated Press report.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the overnight strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran's response.

“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

Kinzinger expressed confidence in Trump's administration Wednesday, saying he'll have the right information and make the right decision.

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