New York Democrats’ fractured views on the Iran drone strike

Qasem Soleimani, major general in the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.
Qasem Soleimani, major general in the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.
Qasem Soleimani, major general in the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.

New York Democrats’ fractured views on the Iran drone strike

While Republicans stand united on the U.S.’s killing of Qassim Suleimani and Democrats oppose rush to war, their messaging varies.
January 3, 2020

Early Friday, Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani – a powerful top commander – was killed in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport. Iran is now threatening to fire back at the United States and the possibility of war is looming. 

New York lawmakers and politicos have been quick to react to the killing of Suleimani, though their opinions are largely fragmented. Republicans, unsurprisingly, are throwing their support behind the commander in chief’s decision to unleash this drone strike but Democrats’ are more divided on the details when it comes to their position on the drone strike. 

Moderate Democrats are condemning Suleimani, who was allegedly responsible for attacks on American troops in Iraq through proxies, while taking issue with the legality of the attack itself and raising questions about where it might lead. Progressive Democrats are slamming the attack and are seriously opposed to the possibility of entering into a war with Iran. 

These reactions to the killing of Suleimani reveal a lot about New York politics: Republicans are following the president’s lead wholeheartedly, while moderate and progressive Democrats tend to agree on some points while diverging on others. It's a good indication of the cleavages that may arise in the primaries later this year.

Here’s where New York lawmakers stand on the U.S.’s killing of Suleimani:

In support of the president

Rep. Elise Stefanik

The new Republican from the North Country darling went on Twitter to show her support for President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Suleimani, urging people to thank the U.S.’s military for carrying out a “successful mission.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin

The Long Island congressman expressed his support for the president and called killing Suleimani “necessary justice.” He also shared a video that he claimed was footage of Iranians “dancing in the street for freedom,” grateful that Suleimani is dead. Zeldin also said that the strike was legal and helped prevent further terrorism that would have been carried out by Suleimani.

Condemning Suleimani but questioning the validity of the attack

Rep. Max Rose

Moderate Military veteran Rep. Max Rose said that no one should mourn the loss of Suleimani but that the strike raises some serious questions about what led to its decision. Rose also added that “no President has the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.”

Rep. Anthony Brindisi 

In a statement, the Central New York congressman – like Rose, he’s a centrist freshman from a district Trump carried – took time to point out Suleimani’s many heinous acts against the U.S. military, while questioning the White House’s plan to keep peace in the Middle East. 

“Keeping our servicemembers safe and fostering stability in the region should be the top priority, said Brindisi. “Congress needs to execute its Constitutional responsibility and oversight of military operations. The Administration needs to present a clear plan that will protect America’s soldiers and our interests in the region. The American people and our brave men and women in uniform deserve that much.”

Rep. Eliot Engel

Rep. Eliot Engel – who is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs – said in a statement that Suleimani was a “mastermind of immense violence, suffering, and instability,” who had “the blood of Americans on his hands” but expressed deep concern over what the eventual outcome of this strike will be.

“Iran is the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism,” said Engel. “The regime in Tehran and its proxies have global reach that they may use to seek retribution for this strike, endangering the lives of Americans around the world. And we are now again on the brink of direct confrontation in the Middle East. Tonight’s action represents a massive escalation in our conflict with Iran with unpredictable consequences.”

Engel continued to say that Congress was not notified of the strike and that raises “serious legal problems.”

“Even if this strike was in self-defense, no current congressional authorization covered it and the President needs to notify Congress within 48 hours pursuant to the War Powers Resolution,” said the congressman. “The law requires notification so the President can’t plunge the United States into ill-considered wars.”

Against a war with Iran 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

During a briefing regarding the strike in Iran, the senator questioned what the “legal basis” was for issuing this attack, what the attack means for the long term stability of Iran and what will happen to members of the U.S. military sent to the Middle East in the future. 

"When the security of the nation is at stake, decisions must not be made in a vacuum," Schumer said.

State Sen. Julia Salazar

The freshman state senator forcefully opposed the aggressive move and said that there is no reason why the U.S. should enter into another “disastrous war.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

According to Politico New York reporter Erin Durkin, the mayor said that the drone strike "creates a whole series of dangerous possibilities for our city," which is already a “number one terror target in the United States."

He continued to say that because we are now in a "de facto state of war between the United States of America and Iran," that the city will not let its guard down for a moment.

Jamaal Bowman

A candidate challenging Engel from the left in the Democratic primary, Bowman kept his tweet opposing a war with Iran short and sweet. 

Mondaire Jones

Jones, who is hoping to take over Rep. Nita Lowey's seat in District 17, next to Engel’s, suggested on Twitter that Trump is willing to get thousands of U.S. soldiers killed just to win re-election.

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.