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Idaho’s Risch walks back earlier statements indicating U.S. is headed to war with Iran


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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Following President Donald J. Trump’s remarks Wednesday morning on the U.S. response to last night’s Iranian missile strikes aimed at U.S.-Iraqi bases in Iraq, Idaho U.S. Sen. Jim Risch said he hopes the Iranian regime has learned a lesson.

“Today, the president laid out in clear terms the policies the United States has been pursuing and will continue to pursue against Iran’s unacceptable conduct on all fronts, from its attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon to its state sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East,” said Risch, who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He said he encouraged the Iranian regime to not just listen to President Trump, but to carefully study his statement in total regarding the path forward.

“My thoughts and prayers are with our brave diplomats and armed forces in harm’s way, and the families that support them,” Risch said. “I applaud the president for de-escalating the situation and putting us back on the path of diplomacy. We do not seek conflict, but the United States will not be deterred from protecting American lives and our vital national security interests.”

Risch quickly walked backed statements he made Tuesday evening to a Boise TV news station shortly after the missile attack, which was an Iranian response to the Trump administration’s killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

KTVB asked the senator whether the U.S. was on the brink of war with Iran.

“As hard as it is to accept, I don’t think the president has any choice of where we are,” Risch responded. “The other way we could do it would be to run up the white flag and turn our backs and run. I think for our reputation in the world, our interests in the world, I just don’t think we can do that.”

Risch said he suspected that a war would not last very long.

“You’re going to see a war that doesn’t include the kind of recent wars that we have seen like in Iran and in Afghanistan, or Vietnam, for that matter, where there’s a lot of boots on the ground,” he said. “There’s just no tolerance for that today.”

Risch told KTVB later Tuesday evening that he had since learned new information about the missile strikes that made all-out war much less likely.

“Things were looking very badly because I have no question that the president’s actions in response thereto was going to be very, very strong,” Risch said. “But as it turns out, it was what we used to call in the old days a ‘demonstration shot.’ At the end of the day it wasn’t much more than a fireworks display. (Iran) obviously aimed these missiles at places where they would not kill any Americans.”


Here are additional excerpts from KTVB’s transcript of comments Risch made to reporter Mark Johnson on Tuesday night before Risch said he learned more about the attack:

“In any event, here we are, and the Iranians promised revenge. Tonight it’s coming and they’re going to have a very bad day here pretty quickly. We do not want a war with Iran, certainly not with the Iranian people. They’re good people and they deserve better than what they’ve got for leadership. They’ve started something and if they continue on, we’re going to finish it and they’re not going to like what happens.”

“… The difficulty in dealing with the Iranians is that they simply just aren’t honest brokers. They cheat, they lie, they’ll do anything to get their way and get through a crisis so negotiations with them have gone very, very badly every time that we have sat down with them.”

“I don’t know where else it goes, Mark (Johnson). I’ve been in this business for a while and it would be wonderful if everyone would stop and say, wait a minute, and talk but the parties aren’t just in that frame of mind right now. We went a year of just not responding to the attacks that they did and in that part of the world, they don’t respect reasonable tolerance. What they respect is force.”