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Risch: Iran attacks were 'a fireworks display,' situation could de-escalate

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said earlier that the missile attack put the United States on a direct course for war against Iran

BOISE, Idaho — On Tuesday evening, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fired a barrage of missiles at two separate air bases in Iraq that American troops were stationed at. The attacks come as retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Quasem Soleimani last week.

In the immediate wake of the attacks, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said the missile attack put the United States on a direct course for war against Iran.

When asked if the United States is on the brink of war with Iran, Risch said, "As hard as it is to accept, I don't think the president has any choice of where we are. The other way we could do it would be to run up the white flag and turn our backs and run. I think for our reputation in the world, our interests in the world, I just don't think we can do that."

Risch, the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told KTVB later in the evening that he had learned new information that makes all-out war much less likely.

In a live interview on the News at 10 Tuesday night, Risch said the attacks on the air bases were simply a show of force, and that the Iranians were not looking to kill Americans. 

"Things were looking very badly because I have no question that the president's actions in response thereto was going to very, very strong," Risch said. "But as it turns out, it was what we used to call in the old days a 'demonstration shot.' At the end of the day it wasn't much more than a fireworks display. [Iran] obviously aimed these missiles at places where they would not kill any Americans." 

Risch said his sources tell him that there were no American casualties in the attacks. 

"This is a point at which both parties can take a deep breath, de-escalate and take a step back," he said. "We don't want to go to war with [Iran], and we certainly have no quarrel with the Iranians themselves. It is the regime that is an evil regime, and the Iranian people really deserve better.

"The Iranians are going to continue to do what they do, and the problem is certainly not resolved," he added. "But at least the tensions appear like they might ratchet back tomorrow."

Risch said Idahoans can "sleep well tonight."

President Trump sent out a tweet Tuesday night, saying all "All is well!" and noting that he would be making a statement Wednesday morning.

If Iran continues with hostilities with the US, Risch said in the earlier interview that American forces would put an end to it. 

"They started something and if they continue on, we're going to finish it," he said.

RELATED: How did tensions get this high between Iran and US? Here's a history cheat sheet

Escalating tensions between Iran and the United States have been slowing coming to a boiling point over the last year, according to Risch.

"The background on this is over the course of the last year, the Iranians have done a number of things against us, starting with they blew up a couple of oil tankers and we did nothing. They shot down a drone and we did nothing. They attacked the Saudi Arabia oil plant where 100 Americans were working and we did nothing," he told KTVB. "Then they launched 12 attacks against our bases in Iraq and we did nothing. But finally on the 13th attack... they killed an American and injured four American soldiers, and at that point, the president had enough."

RELATED: Pentagon: Two Iraq bases that house US troops targeted by missiles from Iran

RELATED: Sen. Lindsey Graham calls Iran retaliation an 'act of war'

Read all of Sen. Risch's earlier comments below:

I spent all afternoon with our intelligence people and there was no doubt that this was coming.

The background on this is over the course of the last year, the Iranians have done a number of things against us, starting with they blew up a couple of oil tankers and we did nothing. They shot down a drone and we did nothing, they attacked the Saudi Arabia oil plant where 100 Americans were working and we did nothing. Then they launched 12 attacks against our bases in Iraq and we did nothing. But finally on the 13th attack... they killed an American and injured four American soldiers. And at that point, the president had enough.

We had been warning them, I had been warning them, the President had been, numerous people here had been warning the Iranians, both publically and through the back channels that are available to us, even though we don't have formal relations with their country. We had been warning them that they just couldn't do this, and of course the red line was going to be the death of any American and they were just reckless about it.  And they eventually just got the job done and killed somebody so that the President had enough. He ordered that Solomani be killed. I'm struck by the fact that the Democrats are whining about this, and yet President Obama had taken out Osama Bin Laden and numerous other characters and did good and we praised him for it.  I'm just absolutely struck that this guy, who is a very bad guy, his body count was much higher than Osama Bin Laden's as far as the people that he killed.

In any event, here we are, and the Iranians promised revenge. Tonight it's coming and they're going to have a very bad day here pretty quickly.

We do not want a war with Iran, certainly not with the Iranian people. They're good people and they deserve better than what they've got for leadership.

They've started something and if they continue on, we're going to finish it and they're not going to like what happens.

You always hope that it is, and that's the way that these things should be resolved. The difficulty in dealing with the Iranians is that they simply just aren't honest brokers. They cheat, they lie, they'll do anything to get their way and get through a crisis so negotiations with them have gone very, very badly every time that we have sat down with them.

I suspect that you're not going to see a war that lasts very long, I think you're going to see a war that doesn't include the kind of recent wars that we have seen like in Iran and in Afghanistan or Vietnam for that matter where there's a lot of boots on the ground. There's just no tolerance for that today.

We've got ability to conduct warfare from a distance. We don't want to do this, but the President has to do something. At this point, he can't... when they attack bases like they have done, the President has to do something.

There are a number of options being sorted out right now. That regime is going to hear from us pretty quickly.

I don't know where else it goes, Mark. I've been in this business for a while and it would be wonderful if everyone would stop and say, wait a minute, and talk but the parties aren't just in that frame of mind right now.

We went a year of just not responding to the attacks that they did and in that part of the world, they don't respect reasonable tolerance. What they respect is force.

As hard as it is to accept, I don't think the President has any choice where we are. The other way we could do it would be to run up the white flag, turn our backs and run.

I think for our reputation in the world and our interests in the world, and I just don't think we can do that.