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Lawmakers at a discussion on foreign policy Tuesday said it is time for Americans to “confront Iran” and tell the rogue nation to act in a more responsible manner.
Iran should be warned that “You become a good actor in the region, or you face the consequences,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) said during the discussion, which was organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).
Iran is responsible for stoking hostilities across the Middle East and arming scores of anti-American militants, Kinzinger said.
“Everything that’s happening in the region … it’s really a proxy war right now against Iran,” said Kinzinger, who is a member of the Air National Guard. “The bad player in every one of these examples [of hostility] is Iran.”
Kinzinger cited as examples of hostility Tehran’s giving sophisticated missiles to Hamas terrorists and throwing its support behind the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I think it’s time to confront Iran,” he said.
Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) also listed Iran as his top foreign policy concern.
Lieberman said during a separate FPI discussion that “Iran and the nuclear weapons program” would remain America’s top threat in the coming months.
Iran is poised to announce at any time that is has successfully built a nuclear weapon, Lieberman warned.
“There could be a break out at any time here,” he said. “That remains my biggest concern.”
Looming cuts to the nation’s defense budget, known as sequestration, also remain a top concern among lawmakers.
The defense budget will be cut by nearly $500 billion if lawmakers fail to reach a comprehensive budget agreement before next year. This could cripple America’s armed forces, experts say.
Iran and the matter of defense cuts should not be viewed as “mutually exclusive,” Kinzinger told attendees.
If billions are slashed from the defense budget, “You’re absolutely limiting your options about what you can do in Iran” to prevent it from obtaining nuclear arms, he said. “You are making yourself vulnerable [and] you have to accept you’re limiting your options.”
Lieberman expressed worry about the ongoing war in Syria.
America’s failure to support and arm the rebels fighting against Assad has made the opposition more likely to resent the U.S. and embrace extremist groups, he said.
“The fact we and others have laid back from the conflict has made it much more difficult,” Lieberman said, recalling a recent meeting he had with Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey.
Lieberman recalled one rebel leader saying: “You’re putting us in a position where a lot of our young men are turning towards the extremists, the al Qaeda affiliated groups because they’re offering more than we are.”
“The sooner we [the U.S.] get in the better, and we’ll be positioned,” Lieberman said. “You tend to remember the people who helped you when you’re in a fight and remember those who didn’t help you.”
Reports that President Barack Obama could significantly draw down troop levels in Afghanistan also raised red flags among some Republicans.
“To send any signal we might precipitously withdraw … just accelerates our declining security situation” in that country, said Rep.-elect Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
The last thing America wants to do is give the Taliban a “morale boost,” Cotton said.
Taliban militants, Kinzinger added, “understand that all they have to do is outlast the U.S.’s will.”