Republican congressman praises ISIS attack in Iran, says US should consider supporting ISIS

Um, no.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia on June 14, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Holston
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia on June 14, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Holston

On Thursday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) praised the recent Islamic State attack in Tehran as a “good thing” and suggested that maybe the United States should work with the militant organization.

Rohrabacher’s entire line of reasoning for why the United States should work with a militant group accused of human rights violations and war crimes like ethnic cleansing is astonishing. Here it is verbatim:

“We have recently seen an attack on Iran, and the Iranian government, the mullahs, believe that Sunni forces have attacked them. This may signal a ratcheting up of certain commitments by the United States of America. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to make this point and see what you think, isn’t it a good thing for us to have the United States finally backing up Sunnis who will attack Hezbollah and the Shiite threat to us? Isn’t that a good thing? And if so, maybe this is a Trump — maybe it’s a Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another, considering that you have two terrorist organizations.”

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3vD1pJR98dA

Iran witnessed its first attack claimed by the Islamic State on Wednesday. Attackers stormed the parliament building in Tehran as well as the shrine of the country’s first Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, a notable symbol for the Iranian government. At least 17 people were killed in the twin attacks, and dozens were injured. The attack was a notable achievement for the Islamic State, which according to the Iranian government, has been trying to plan an attack in the country for some time.

There are multiple issues with Rohrabacher’s logic. The most obvious, of course, is that it is not in the interest of the United States to see the Islamic State expanding across the Middle East. The United States is actively involved in reigning back the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila announced that U.S. Special Operations Forces are working with the Philippine military in a battle against Islamic-State affiliated fighters on that front as well. Thus, the attack in Tehran this week— the first time the Islamic State has successfully planned something in Iran — can certainly not be a “good thing.”

It’s not clear why Rohrabacher views the Iranian government and the Islamic State as one and the same, but it’s even more baffling that he thinks the recent attack was thanks to the Trump administration. The Trump administration’s foreign policy has been completely incoherent, especially when it comes to the Middle East. But for the most part, Trump has been very vocal in his criticism of the Islamic State. If Rohrabacher has some intelligence that the administration is abetting the Islamic State, while the U.S. military is fighting it on multiple other fronts, he should probably share that intelligence immediately.

Experts at the House hearing where Rohrabacher made the comments immediately refuted his comments.

“Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State,” said Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It’s never in our interest to support a terrorist group like the Islamic State. We should condemn the attacks in Tehran, as we would condemn any act of terrorism, even as we hold Iran accountable for its sponsorship of terrorism.”

Rohrabacher wouldn’t listen to the experts on the panel, however.

“So that’s like Joe Stalin was a horrible guy, we must never associate with horrible guys like that, even against Hitler,” he said, talking over Levitt. “And so maybe it’s a good idea to have radical Muslim terrorists fighting each other. I’ll leave it at that.”

Rohrabacher’s comments come a few days after a short White House statement that implied that Iran deserved the attack in Tehran. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” the statement read. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

It’s no surprise that Rohrabacher is so anti-Iran he is willing to praise the Islamic State for conducting an attack in the country. The congressman is a vocal supporter of regime change as well as a huge advocate of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a cult-like group known for human rights abuses which wants to overthrow the Iranian government and which was classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government until 2012.

Rohrabacher, who has been has been previously called “Putin’s favorite congressman,” has also brushed off human rights abuses by the Russian government, calling them “baloney.”

UPDATE: Rohrabacher has issued a statement clarifying his position. The statement says that “the Mullah regime in Iran” is no better than ISIS and says that the use of force against government buildings “like Tehran’s Reichstag, controlled by gangsters, tyrants, or terrorists (in or out of uniform), should not be considered off-limits.”

The clarification also assumes that Khomeini, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, is still alive and “has the final say about any candidate or any matter of importance discussed in parliament.” Khomeini died in 1989.

Rohrabacher has corrected his statement to note that the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “has the final say about any candidate or any matter of importance,” not Khomeini.

A previous version of this piece said that Rohrabacher made these comments on Friday. He actually made these comments during a House hearing on Thursday titled “Attacking Hezbollah’s Financial Network: Policy Options.”