WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the U.S. Congress blasted Iran after the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but expressed wariness about U.S. military action, especially before they have a clearer picture of who was behind it.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jim Risch (R-ID) talks to the media after a meeting with Carlos Alfredo Vecchio (2nd R), charge d’affaires appointed by Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Donald Trump said the United States was “locked and loaded” to hit back after Saturday’s attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.
Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war.”
U.S. lawmakers, especially Trump’s fellow Republicans, were quick to blame Tehran.
“Iran continues to respond to diplomacy with violence and demonstrate the regime’s refusal to act as a responsible member of the international community,” Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Many members of Congress stressed that the U.S. Congress, not the president has the right to declare war and warned against any quick military action.
Congress, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats, has passed – but Trump has vetoed – four bills seeking to push back against Trump’s strong support for the Saudi government, despite its human rights record and steep civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.
Senate aides said the administration was expected to begin providing classified briefings on Saturday’s attack for congressional staff and members as soon as Monday.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who is on the Foreign Relations committee, noted that the United States has long been wary of getting involved in conflicts between nations in the Middle East. He noted that Washington does not have a defense treaty with Riyadh.
“Why should the United States get dragged into a conflict that has more to do with Saudi and Iranian power in the Middle East than American power?” Murphy, a critic of Saudi Arabia on rights issues including its role in the Yemen war, told Reuters.
Risch warned of U.S. retaliation in case of an attack on U.S. troops.
“Iran should not underestimate the United States’ resolve,” he said. “Any attack against U.S. forces deployed abroad must be met with an overwhelming response – no targets are off the table.”
Republican Senator Rand Paul, another member of the foreign relations panel, said on CNN that any attack on Iran would constitute a “needless escalation” of war.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler