Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney rejected suggestions that President Donald Trump was eyeing a war with Iran after reports that the White House was considering sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran escalates its nuclear weapons program or attacks U.S. soldiers or interests.
Romney, who on Tuesday voted against a Trump judicial pick, said he didn’t believe the president was contemplating a new war.
“It’s close to inconceivable that the president, the administration would consider a war with Iran,” Romney told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. Trump "made it clear when he ran for president that one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in American history was the decision to go to war with Iraq.”
Romney added that it would be “unthinkable” that Trump would consider another war in the region with a much bigger and stronger foe.
The New York Times reported this week that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan unveiled a plan to Trump’s advisers that would send up to 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East, though a land invasion was not part of the proposal led by hard-liners, such as Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.
The news comes as the State Department withdrew “nonemergency” staff from its embassy in Iraq, arguing there are new threats from Iran and its proxy forces targeting Americans.
The developments have Congress questioning Trump's intentions and demanding evidence of what threats exist to justify such moves.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration should "immediately provide this committee with a briefing on the decision to order the departure of embassy staff, the intelligence on what Iran may be planning to do and any plans to go to war with Iran,” according to NBC News.
He said at a committee hearing that the only reasons to evacuate nonessential personnel is if they were at risk or it was “in preparation for military action,” NBC News reported.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has advocated for a tougher stance against Iran, said he wanted to learn more, too.
“There are a lot of people in my shoes that are going to support standing up to Iran,” he said, “but we need to understand what we’re doing.”
Trump on Wednesday downplayed The New York Times’ report but then quickly confirmed he would consider sending troops.
“Would I do that? Absolutely,” Trump said. “We’d send a hell of lot more troops than that."
Romney is right when he points out that Trump has said the war in Iraq was disastrous, though Trump didn’t speak out publicly — save for one offhand remark in a radio interview in which he said “I guess so” to supporting the war — but he was critical after the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Romney, who has been critical at times of Trump, on Tuesday was the sole GOP vote against a Trump judicial pick, Michael Truncale, who had called then-President Barack Obama an “un-American imposter.” The GOP-led Senate confirmed Truncale, 49-46.
Romney had also spoken out against Trump’s potential pick for the Federal Reserve board, Herman Cain; Trump eventually didn’t nominate Cain.