- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2019

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls took the the Trump administration to task Sunday over its rhetoric against Iran, saying the White House is leading the U.S. toward another intractable conflict in the Middle East.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who also vied for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, drew direct parallels between the ongoing call to arms from the White House against Tehran to run-up in Washington to the 2003 Iraq war.

“If Trump wants to go to war in Iran, that will make the war in Iraq look like a cakewalk,” Mr. Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We’ve got to do everything we can to stop that.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who won her House seat while also an officer with the Hawaii National Guard, echoed Mr. Sanders’ comparisons between the Iraq war and a possible conflict with Iran.

The White House is “setting the stage for a war with Iran that would prove to be far more costly, far more devastating and dangerous than anything that we saw in the Iraq war,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think what we’re seeing, unfortunately, is what looks a lot like people in the Trump administration trying to create a pretext or an excuse for us to go to war against Iran,” she added.

Such a conflict “would actually undermine our national security, cost us countless American lives, cost civilian lives across the region … and it would actually make us less safe by strengthening terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda,” she added.

Rep. Sean Moulton of Massachusetts, like Ms. Gabbard an Iraq war veteran, characterized the Trump administration’s threats of military action against Iran as the result of Mr. Trump’s inability to curb the aggressiveness among the more hawkish members of his inner circle.

“The fact of the matter is there are a lot of dangers we’re facing around the world because we have a weak commander in- chief in Donald Trump. That’s why in this race I’m taking him on not just as president but as commander in chief,” Mr. Moulton told ABC on Sunday.

When asked whether his combat experiences during the Iraq war have colored his take on the White House’s recent actions against Iran, Mr. Moulton replied: “It was bloody [in Iraq]. We won. And if necessary, I will fight Iran again. But right now war is not necessary.”

Last week, Mr. Trump defended his aggressive Iran policy, claiming his expanding pressure campaign will work to force Tehran into direct talks.

He also lashed out at reports of disagreements within in his administration over the policy, specifically with hawkish National Security Advisor John R. Bolton, a longtime advocate of regime change in Tehran.

“There is no infighting whatsoever,” the president said on Twitter, hours after the State Department announced the withdrawal of nonessential U.S. government personnel from Iraq over unspecified threats that administration officials have for days said are linked to nearby Iran.

Sunday’s criticisms came amid reports that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was the target of a rocket attack.

Iraqi military officials confirmed Sunday a single Katyusha rocket landed near the parade grounds inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, which is home to the U.S. embassy as well as the main headquarters for the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State. But eyewitnesses claim a second rocket also landed inside the Green Zone, according to news reports.

Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department had issued a statement on the rocket attack by Sunday afternoon. No casualties were reported as a result of the attack and no group has claimed responsibility for the strikes. The attack was the first strike against a U.S. diplomatic post in Iraq since September, when the American mission in Iraq’s southern port city of Basra was hit.

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