Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee says Trump ‘made the right call’ by halting Iran strike

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Sen. Mike Lee speaks at a Utah public lands forum hosted by the Sutherland Institute, June 29, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Lee has talked to the White House about a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, he said Friday. But Lee wouldn't say whether his name is among the potential front-runners.

President Donald Trump’s decision Thursday night to cancel military strikes against Iran was lauded by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Friday, with the senator saying that threats cannot be eliminated by “wishful thinking," but that not all provocations call for an armed response.

“After speaking with President Trump this afternoon, I am convinced he made the right call last night," Lee said in a prepared statement.

Lee said it’s clear that the Iranian regime is a threat to the United States, and that the Middle East nation’s recent provocations are a transparent attempt to distract the Iranian people from the true source of their hardship.

But economic sanctions against Iran are working, Lee said, and it’s unclear whether U.S. air strikes would have the desired effect of changing the regime’s behavior.

“[Air strikes] may unintentionally strengthen the regime by unifying the Iranian people,” Lee said. “President Trump is finally changing the rules of the game, and is winning.”

Trump on Thursday ordered an attack on Iran in retaliation for the recent downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, but canceled the strike shortly before it was set to take place. On Friday, Trump said his reversal was motivated by a desire to avoid casualties, according to reports.

The episode was the latest in a series of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, which include Trump withdrawing from a 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear development, Trump levying sanctions against Iran and, more recently, the Trump administration blaming Iran for a series of attacks on commercial oil tankers.

Iran has denied attacking the tankers, and some of the United State’s international allies requested additional evidence before supporting the administration’s position.

Lee said that if and when Iran’s actions require a military response, that decision should be made by the members of Congress.

“For now, the president’s Iran strategy is prudent, aggressive, and effective,” Lee said. "I fully support it, and his decision last night.”

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