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Utahns split on President Donald Trump’s handling of situation with Iran

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President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Knapp Center on the campus of Drake University, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are divided on how President Donald Trump handled the situation with Iran last month that put the country on the brink of war.

And last week, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced a resolution emphasizing that the current Authorization for Use of Military Force did not provide legal justification for war with Iran.

Curtis said the nearly 20-year-old authorization from Congress does not cover acts toward Iran.

“From this starting point, Congress should revisit the (Authorization for Use of Military Force) and have a thoughtful, bipartisan discussion on how best to approach this subject to address current and future threats against the United States,” he said.

Curtis’ resolution comes after the Democrat-controlled House passed legislation last week to repeal the 2002 war authorization that the Trump administration used as a legal basis to kill Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander. The House also voted to block funds for the use of any military force in or against Iran without congressional declaration of war, a new authorization or a national emergency. Both measures passed mostly along party lines.

The Trump administration claimed taking out Soleimani prevented attacks on additional American targets, following assaults on U.S. troops and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad

Iran retaliated with missile strikes on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. Trump responded with economic sanctions rather than military force.

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A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics Poll shows 28% of Utahns rated the president’s handling of the situation as poor, while 24% called it excellent. Another 23% rated it good, 16% fair and 9% weren’t sure.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,017 Utah registered voters Jan. 15-22. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Democrats in the poll expressed strong opinions against Trump’s actions, with 67% rating it poor and 14% fair. Among Republicans, 41% called it excellent and 30% good.

The House also passed a nonbinding resolution in early January to limit Trump’s ability to engage in military force against Iran. All four Utah congressmen — including the state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Ben McAdams — voted against it.

Members of the Utah delegation expressed relief that the U.S. and Iran didn’t go to war and said Trump showed restraint in dealing with the situation.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had the strongest reaction to the drone strike that killed Soleimani, calling the administration’s briefing on the attack the worst he has seen. He said the U.S. should not engage in further hostilities with Iran without congressional approval or a declaration of war.

Lee also said he would support Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine’s war powers resolution to prevent an unauthorized war with Iran. Kaine, of Virginia, also has legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Iraq War authorizations.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has said he would not vote for Kaine’s resolution because it sends the wrong message and undermines U.S deterrence in Iran.