House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy placed blame squarely on Iran Tuesday for escalating tensions in the Middle East, while insisting America was not at fault for the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines flight that killed 57 Canadians.
“There’s no blame here for America. America stood up once again for freedom. Iran went past a red line they had not gone past before killing a U.S. citizen — Iran shot down a commercial airliner, there’s no doubt where the blame lies,” McCarthy said when asked about comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a Global News interview on Monday.
McCarthy praised U.S. President Donald Trump for his response to mounting tension, which included the targeted killing of high-ranking Iranian official Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“I think for one moment in time, for one snapshot here, you’d have to sit back and give this president credit,” he said, without naming specifics.
McCarthy also introduced a U.S. resolution condemning the Iranian government for initially lying about the Tehran plane crash and calling for Iran to “refrain from the use of violence.”
When asked whether Canadians were “collateral damage” in the tension between the U.S. and Iran during an interview with Global News’ Dawna Friesen Monday, Trudeau stressed the need for de-escalation.
“If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families. This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it and it is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on de-escalation, on moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involve further conflict,” Trudeau said during the interview Monday.
In response to this, McCarthy pointed to a resolution supported by Iranian and Jewish communities in Canada that would list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
“Trudeau is right about what Iran has been doing,” said McCarthy. “Iran is wrong and that’s why that resolution should be on the floor and why that resolution should pass.”
During the interview, Trudeau did not specify whether a specific country was to blame.
On Tuesday, House foreign affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel condemned Soleimani’s killing, calling it a “massive escalation” in tensions with Iran. He criticized Trump for taking an apparent page out of Iran’s playbook and almost putting the country on “the brink of war.”
“Iran bears much of the blame for this escalation. The regime is the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism and believes that provocative and destabilizing behaviour strengthens its hand. It’s what we expect from Iran,” Engel said.
“What’s helped stave off calamity for four decades is that the United States doesn’t behave that way. We don’t play on Iran’s turf. Being a world leader means you don’t emulate your adversaries, you use your power judiciously by trying to change behaviour while seeking to diffuse conflict and prevent bloodshed.”
Council on Foreign Relations president Richard N. Haass also voiced his concerns about escalation with Iran during a press conference on Tuesday. He said he disagreed with Trump’s tweet suggesting it didn’t matter whether Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S.
“Imminence is central to the concept of pre-emption, which is treated in international law as a legitimate form of self-defence. Preventive attacks, though, are something very different,” Haass said.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was en route to Kyiv from Iran when it was shot down on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. The crash happened moments after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack at an Iraqi military base housing U.S. soldiers as retaliation for the targeted attack on Soleimani.
Iranian officials first insisted the plane went down due to a mechanical issue but eventually admitted three days later the country’s Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot down the plane, gearing up for potential military encounter with the U.S.
If the resolution passes, families of the victims of the crash will have the right to sue the IRGC under the Justice For Victims of Terrorism Act.
Following widespread protest and outrage, Iran has since made several arrests. In a statement on Tuesday, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said “some individuals” were arrested after “extensive investigations” but did not specify who or how many were arrested.
— With files from the Associated Press.