CULLMAN, Alabama — As the world was awaiting President Donald Trump remarks Wednesday morning regarding an Iranian missile attack on U.S. assets in Iraq, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was on the campaign trail in Alabama.
Sessions, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat he occupied for two decades, was greeting potential GOP primary voters at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in North Alabama. Many of those voters were trying to make sense of the perceived escalation between the United States and Iran.
Following Trump’s address to the nation on Wednesday, Sessions spoke to Breitbart News and offered his assessment of the president’s response to the Iranian ballistic missile strike a day earlier.
Sessions described Trump’s positioning as brilliant and said it forces the Iranian regime to make a choice.
“I think he brilliantly exposed in a way that will be important to even our European allies,” Sessions said. “In other words, he responded to a clear threat to the United States. He targeted the core person responsible for it. And he has now made clear that he favors a policy of peace and prosperity for Iran if they choose it. Basically, he said to Iran you can either continue the path of terrorism and world hostility, or you can choose a path of peace and prosperity. I think that positions us well with our allies and also puts maximum pressure on Iran.”
The Alabama Republican noted Trump’s mention of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China as an offer to get other global actors more involved in a potential peace deal. However, he noted that past efforts have offered little success and suggested that it was a product of the “revolutionary” nature of the regime.
“I don’t think [Trump] is particularly worried about how opening negotiations were to begin,” he said. “But he’s making a serious offer that our allies and NATO can be involved it seems to me. Look, this is the problem: For decades, the Europeans and the United States have felt that it makes no sense for Iran to continue their rogue terrorist actions. Therefore, they have sought to get Iran to choose a more responsible course. It’s never been successful. It’s because it’s a revolutionary regime, and revolutionary regimes have a history of now adapting to reality. If you look at [Fidel] Castro and North Korea, they seem to resist common sense and good judgment.”
Sessions applauded Trump for making the U.S. position of a nuclear-armed Iran a primary part of his remarks to the nation.
“Extremely important,” Sessions replied when asked about Trump leading off with the statement proclaiming that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” “A nuclear-armed Iran will destabilize the entire Middle East. It would be a colossal disaster for the world. We wish that weren’t so, but it just is.”
Overall, Sessions said he believed Trump has lived up to his 2016 presidential campaign pledge to avoid foreign entanglements. In this case, however, the former attorney general said the president had to act in response to a “rogue regime.”
“I support what the president has done,” Sessions said. “He was one of the first persons to openly on the Republican side to question intervention and long-term involvement in the Middle East and think it is not a good idea. But you cannot allow your nation just to be victimized, your people killed by a rogue regime and not respond. So, I think instead of doing massive destruction and creating a war, he targeted the head of the terrorism force in Soleimani and successfully did so.”
“Make no mistake – this is a serious thing,” he continued. “They are dangers that war could spread. But in the long-run, Iran has got so much more to lose than we do that I don’t think the president would do anything that would involve our troops on the ground.”
Sessions also noted Trump had many more tools at his disposal that would not have resulted in “boots on the ground” against Iran and offered some extreme examples, which he said were sometimes missed by those focused on one side of U.S. foreign policy.
“I don’t suggest this, but the president knows how to negotiate, and he knows how to use leverage and power,” he said. “We have the capability with probably some cost to knock all their airplanes out of the sky, sink every ship that they have. We could blockade every harbor that they have. We could bomb their power plants and their oil refineries and that kind of thing, so if they go too far, Iran’s economy could be devastated without a single soldier having to be on the ground. That’s the kind of thing that you don’t want to do. You never know what all may happen.”
“I guess I’m just cautioning and saying that a lot of times, we think about what only can be done to us, and we don’t fully grasp what could be done to adversaries,” Sessions added.
Sessions said he didn’t think “World War III” was likely as a result of the confrontation, noting that markets had stabilized to back up his claim.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor