Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said Tuesday that recent actions taken by the Trump administration were not girding for war with Iran but rather seeking to deter military action by Iran.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) accused the White House on Tuesday of "itching for a confrontation with Iran," but Cotton, a Donald Trump ally, said that wasn't the case.
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"There can be no doubt that we've seen serious, credible and increased reporting of threats from Iran across the Middle East, whether their own forces like the Revolutionary Guard Corps or through their proxies like the rebel groups they support in places like Yemen or paramilitary forces in Iraq," Cotton told Fox News. "The steps the administration has taken on the recommendation of the Department of Defense like moving an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf or B-52 bombers into the region are all prudent steps not to take military action against Iran, but to try to deter military action by Iran."
Cotton said there were historic precedents for Trump's actions and said the country was positioned to "retaliate if necessary" against aggression by Iran.
Cotton drew attention after a recent interview where he said the U.S. would quickly defeat Iran in an armed conflict, telling Firing Line it would take two strikes: "the first strike and the last strike." Cotton said he wasn't advocating a conflict with the country but rather stating it would be a grave miscalculation by Iran to take action against the U.S.
A firm opponent of the Obama-era nuclear deal, Cotton ripped the sanctions relief that he said allowed the "outlaw regime" to "run wild across the Middle East." Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism and funds such radical organizations as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal last year and issued new sanctions this month against Tehran, in addition to its military moves in the region.