Pentagon sending 3,500 troops to the Middle East after strike in Iraq, protests planned in Denver

Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 03, 2020

DENVER – Multiple groups announced protests at the Colorado state Capitol Saturday as the Pentagon announced it is sending 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East.

“This is a massive and dangerous escalation of conflict with Iran which threatens to lead to regional war,” said the Answer Coalition Colorado on their Facebook Page.

The Pentagon said the U.S. is bracing for retaliation after Iran swore “vigorous vengeance” for the death of a top Iranian general.

President Trump defended his order for an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani Thursday.

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” President Trump said Friday.

Denver Business Owner Babak Behzadi believes Soleimani’s assassination caught the Iranian government off guard.

“The unpredictability of Donald Trump. I didn't vote for him but his element of surprise has been his strength, I think,” Behzadi said.

But he doesn’t believe this conflict will result in an all-out war with Iran.

“Escalation will happen. Definitely, there's going to be retaliation,” Behzadi said. “The Iranian government is stupid but it's not suicidal. I don't think our politicians will go into war with 80 million people, and it's a very nationalistic government."

The Director of the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Denver says Iran will use Soleimani’s death to stop recent protests for human rights.

“They are going to exploit these opportunities to try and crush the popular demands for human rights and democracy to talk about ideological and politicized U.S. foreign policy,” Nader Hashemi said.

Hashemi says the conflict could change quickly depending on what steps Iran takes next.

“Iran was supposed to make an announcement about their compliance with the existing nuclear agreement. I expect they may want to raise the ante and announce something dramatic,” Hashemi said.

Colorado's political leaders in Washington had mixed feelings on the strike, though all agreed they expected Iran to retaliate.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., who is an Iraq War veteran, said he wondered if the Trump administration has a plan in place to deal with the repercussions of killing Soleimani. He previously introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prohibited the administration from entering into a conflict with Iran without congressional authorization.

“While we are still learning details about what occurred, one thing is clear: only Congress can declare war and the President has not sought any such authorization. In July, I was proud to stand with colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to prohibit the Administration from entering into a conflict with Iran without proper congressional authorization," Crow said in a statement. "The President must explain his policy towards Iran and give the American people confidence that we have a coherent strategy for protecting our embassies, our troops, and our national security.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., praised the decision to assassinate Soleimani but said the U.S. should be prepared for retaliation.

“I commend the Administration for taking this decisive action today in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists. The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members,” Gardner said in a statement. “I now urge the Administration to be prepared for possible retaliation, including against U.S. troops stationed in the region, and to consult closely with Congress on any next steps should the situation escalate. I hope Iran will realize its future depends on stopping its support of terrorism.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said she didn't want the U.S. to be drawn into another long-term conflict, and also discussed the AUMF.

“I’m deeply concerned by the escalation of violence with Iran that occurred overnight. Congress has the sole constitutional authority to declare war. And while Iran continues to pose a serious threat to our nation’s security, and our interests abroad, no one wants to see America drawn back into a decades-long war in the Middle East," DeGette said in a statement. “Earlier this year, I voted to solidify Congress’ role in authorizing the use of military force. The type of reckless action that the Trump administration just carried out – without any input from the legislative branch – is exactly what we were trying to prevent."