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Former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton Discusses Conflict With Iran

Lee Hamilton

Former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton. (Zach Herndon, WTIU/WFIU News)

Joe Hren: What do you expect to see come out Iran in the near future? 

Lee Hamilton: First I think we're in a very uncertain period, a very dangerous period. A miscalculation, heated rhetoric, some event could happen that would push us towards war.

The good news at the moment is that both parties seemed to have stepped back away from confrontation, how long that will last is anybody's guess. From where I sit, it seems to me the next move is Iran's and they could choose to quiet things down, deescalate or they could ratchet it up. I think the decision at the moment is to deescalate the violence, let's hope it stays that way.

But I think what happens depends on what the leadership of Iran wants to achieve. Now so far as we are concerned it is not clear to me what our policy is with respect to Iran.

JH: U.S. officials say they are now confident that Iran shot down a Ukrainian aircraft this past week. Does this surprise you, especially the timing of all this?

LH: I don't anything surprises me in the region. You are always going to have these incidents of violence, and the challenge for the policy maker is to try to deescalate, to damp them down, not let them get into a situation where every act of violence has to be met with another act of violence.

That's the way for an almost certain path to war. What is needed now is a path to diplomacy.

JH: Can you help us understand a little bit about the killing of Suleimani, does that come from president Trump or how much is congress involved in that.

LH: I don't think the congress was involved in the killing of the general at all. I don't think they knew about it. To me it was a escalation, the President, I think is often impetuous, I think he made a quick decision, so far as I know he didn't even discuss it with his top advisers.

That's not the kind of thing you want to do without careful consultation. I'm quite sure he did not consult with any of our allies. They were surprised by it. Now, it's that kind of impetuous action that really worries me, because it could trigger a response that could throw us into a path towards war, so I did not approve that.

Was that guy a good guy? No, the general's a bad guy, is there some advantage to removing him? There is.

But the question is, what are the consequences of that kind of a move? I frankly don't think we, the United States, thought very much about the consequences.

So you've got to try to calm the situation down. You don't want to look like you are a pushover, you've got to stand up for your interests. But you've got to keep your eye on how do you get to peace, not how do you get to war.

The path to war is easy, anybody can get there. The path to peace is much tougher.

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