Sanders: I will do everything in my power to prevent war with Iran
Democratic hopeful slams Trump for ‘chest-thumping militarism’
Trump approves $8b Saudi arms sale
Mattis: US should allow diplomats to work diplomacy
More than 70 US retired military leaders wrote an open letter to President Trump urging him to avoid war with Iran.
The former Armed Forces leaders advised Trump in a letter published Thursday in War on the Rocks to take "crisis de-escalation measures".
"As President and Commander-in-Chief, you have considerable power at your disposal to immediately reduce the dangerous levels of regional tension," they wrote. "Crisis de-escalation measures should be established with the Iranian leadership at the senior levels of government as a prelude to exploratory diplomacy on matters of mutual concern."
They added that diplomacy, not armed conflict would be best for US interests.
"The protection of US national interests in the Middle East and the safety of our friends and allies require thoughtful statesmanship and aggressive diplomacy rather than unnecessary armed conflict," they wrote.
They wrote that escalation measures taken by both sides "are highly concerning and make for a potentially deadly confrontation."
Tensions with Iran escalated in recent weeks, particularly after the administration sent a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East amid what US officials claim “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran that had not been publicly identified.
Trump said Friday that he would send about 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran's influence.
According to War on the Rocks, which covers foreign policy and national security issues, the letter was coordinated by the American College of National Security Leaders, which is a group of retired admirals, generals, ambassadors and senior government executives.
On Friday, US Senator Bernie Sanders also took aim at calls for him to "apologize" for his refusal to support US armed conflicts in the Middle East, saying that he was "right" about past US wars and would continue to advocate against war with Iran.
In a tweet, Sanders wrote that he will "apologize to no one" for supporting peaceful diplomatic efforts over armed conflict with Iran, citing US wars in Iraq and Vietnam as examples of past US armed responses that resulted in long-running and exhausting wars.
"I was right about Vietnam. I was right about Iraq. I will do everything in my power to prevent a war with Iran. I apologize to no one," the senator tweeted, along with a video explaining his stance against war with the country.
"Recently I've been criticized a bit because of my opposition to war," he says in the video. "So let me be very clear: I make no apologies to anybody that when I was a young man, before I was elected to anything, I opposed the war in Vietnam. And I know what that war did to my generation."
"I'm going to do everything that I can to prevent a war with Iran, because if you think the war in Iraq was a disaster, my guess is that war in Iran would be even worse," he added.
Another Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg blast Trump for “chest-thumping militarism” and warned that rising tensions between the US and Iran “could very quickly get away from this president.”
Buttigieg, speaking at a campaign event in Exeter, New Hampshire, said that Trump “now seems to be setting us on a course that could lead to violent confrontation”.
He later told reporters that “I’m very worried because we have steps towards confrontation in Iran that almost make it seem as though we learned nothing from the experience in Iraq.”
The 37-year old candidate warned that “what we’re seeing right now is a set of escalations that could very quickly get away from this president to where he’s not even in control.”
The South Bend, Indiana mayor and Afghanistan War veteran criticized the Republican president just hours after the Pentagon said that 1,500 additional US forces and firepower are headed to the Middle East as the specter of potential conflict with Iran increases.
In what appear to be his first public remarks on US national security since his resignation as Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis also offered a word of caution to Trump amid escalating tensions with Iran on Tuesday.
"The United States should buy time to keep peace and stability and allow diplomats to work diplomacy on how to keep peace for one more hour, one more day, one more week, a month or a year," Mattis said during remarks in the United Arab Emirates.
Arms sale to Saudi Arabia
Despite calls from different quarters to ease tension in the Persian Gulf, the US president is approving the sale of billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, citing Iranian threats to its arch rival.
Trump invoked a rarely used aspect of federal law to push through the $8bn (£6bn) deal – bypassing Congress.
He did so by declaring that ongoing tensions with Iran amounted to a national emergency.
The move has angered those who fear the weapons may be used against civilians in Yemen by Saudi-led forces.
Some Democrats accused the president of bypassing Congress because the sale of weapons – including precision-guided bombs – would have been strongly opposed on Capitol Hill.
The Hill, BBC, FOX News and washington examiner contributed to this story.