Tester: “Unequivocal” proof, exit strategy needed before strike on Iran

Sen. Jon Tester (Missoula Current file photo)

Sen. Jon Tester urged the Trump administration and his key advisers to be “absolutely and unequivocally” certain that Iran was behind the weekend bombings on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities before launching a military response.

Any such action also “must be approved by Congress” as a critical condition, he said.

During a media call on Tuesday, Tester said too many questions remain unanswered for him to support a military strike. If it came to that, Tester added, it would require a wide international coalition.

“It has to be a coalition,” Tester told the Missoula Current. “It can’t be the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. It has to be the whole world. I don’t know if any of our allies would even join us in this. We have pushed away our traditional allies, and our president has embraced every despot in the world.”

On Tuesday, analysts and military investigators were looking for proof that Iran was responsible for the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. In a tweet on Sunday, Trump said the U.S was “locked and loaded,” though he has since offered more restrained language regarding a potential response.

Tester said too many questions haven’t been answered for him to support action one way or another.

“You better be doggone sure (Iran) is behind it – I mean absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent locked down with no doubt about it,” he said. “I’m one who’s tired of fighting everyone else’s wars, and I think the country is weary of it.”

After 19 years, U.S. forces remain engaged in Afghanistan, representing the longest war in America’s history. The federal government continues to shape a VA Health Care system to care for the thousands of U.S. troops who have served in the nation’s Middle Eastern wars, including Iraq.

Tester said Saudi Arabia is capable of defending itself if necessary.

“I think Saudi Arabia has the third or fourth largest military in the world,” he said. “It’s U.S. equipment, but if they want to do it, they could do it themselves.”

Tester also urged the administration to develop an exit strategy before launching any form of retaliation.

“You have to have an exit strategy,” he said. “If we learned anything over the last 19 years, you’ve got to have an exit strategy if you do anything so we can get out of these conditions. There’s a lot of unanswered questions before I say this is the right thing to do.”