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President Donald Trump. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

As region's Democrats worry over conflict with Iran, Republicans tout tough stance

BISMARCK — While Democratic members of Minnesota's congressional delegation expressed alarm over the potential for the U.S. slipping into war with Iran this week, Republicans in the Dakotas touted the Trump administration's tough policies and downplayed the possibility of conflict.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday, May 14, that the Trump administration was discussing military options amid rising tensions with Iran, including sending more troops to the Middle East. The newspaper said military officials worry Iran is planning attacks on U.S. forces, which conflicted with statements from a British general serving in the region.

Last year, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated under his predecessor. His administration has since designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization and ratcheted up sanctions.

In a Tuesday tweet, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Trump erred in withdrawing from the nuclear accord and warned the administration's "reckless policies increase the risk of armed conflict." But Klobuchar, who's running for president, said Trump couldn't "draw us into a war" without congressional authorization.

A spokeswoman for Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith said she's worried about the prospect of the Trump administration creating "unnecessary conflicts." Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said on Twitter that Trump and his national security adviser John Bolton were "openly laying the groundwork for another war."

But South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the chamber's second-ranking Republican, appeared to downplay the possibility of armed conflict.

"We know Iran doesn’t have the best intentions in the region, so part of keeping them in check is having a credible military deterrent, which includes strategic planning," he said in an emailed statement. "President Trump isn’t seeking conflict, but he is right to want to deal from a position of strength."

Republicans representing North Dakota in the nation's capital signaled support for the administration's policies on Iran.

Sen. Kevin Cramer said "an emboldened Iran is a threat to the world; and their recent actions are cause for concern."

"President Trump is right to explore all available avenues that would sufficiently weaken this regime and protect the United States; it would be irresponsible to do otherwise," he said in a statement.

In an emailed statement, Sen. John Hoeven backed sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to "abandon its nuclear ambitions and stop its terrorist activities." He said Trump "has said the Administration is not planning to send additional troops to the region."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Trump disputed reports that his administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

"Would I do that? Absolutely," he said. "But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that."

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said he was "particularly concerned about intelligence reports, if true, indicating that Iran may be preparing proxy forces to target Americans in Iraq."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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