In annual speech, Sen. Dan Sullivan calls on Biden administration to get more aggressive with Iran

By James Brooks, Alaska Beacon - February 22, 2024
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, receives applause from the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, after Sullivan’s annual speech to the Legislature. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)


Alaska’s junior U.S. Senator also outlined a list of conflicts between the state and the federal government

Speaking to the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said the United States should sink Iranian ships in the Red Sea if they continue to support Yemeni rebels who have attacked international shipping.

“My suggestion for the (Biden) administration is just give the Iranians one warning: ‘The next time a missile comes to try to kill American sailors, and you’re giving intel to the Houthis, we will sink your navy.’ We could sink the Iranian Navy in about two hours. And my view is we should do it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan made his remarks during his annual address to state lawmakers, laying out a series of domestic and international grievances against the administration of President Joe Biden.

Through Sept. 29, 2023, the administration issued 56 executive orders and actions affecting Alaska, Sullivan said.

Most of those actions involved restrictions on mining, drilling and development that were intended to reduce climate change or protect the local environment.

Sullivan has generally favored those projects and criticized the Biden administration.

“We have this, what I call the ‘Last Frontier lockup,’” Sullivan said.

“This is something I’m fighting every day,” he said to broad applause from the lawmakers in attendance.

 U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, shakes hands with Alaska House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, after Sullivan’s annual speech to the Legislature. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon) 

Sullivan, who retired Feb. 1 from the U.S. Marine Corps after 30 years in active and reserve service, is on the Senate Armed Services Committee and devoted much of his speech to international issues.

In the Red Sea, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been targeting shipping, including American warships, in the area. The sea serves as a key link in international shipping. American and British ships have counterattacked the rebels, but the attacks have continued.

Sullivan criticized the Biden administration for failing to deter Iran from supporting the rebels. He said that if the attacks continue, he’d like to see a repeat of something like the 1988 attacks by the U.S. Navy against Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

In that case, the United States sank Iranian intelligence trawlers and sea platforms to retaliate against an Iranian minelaying campaign that damaged an American warship.

 U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, prepares for a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon) 

Thus far, America’s public response to the Iranian presence in the Red Sea has been limited to diplomatic efforts and a cyberattack that crippled two Iranian ships.

“It’s a really dangerous world right now, and our ability to protect ourselves has withered,” Sullivan said, advocating federal investments to improve America’s ability to manufacture ammunition and weapons.

Last week, with Sullivan’s support, the U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion military spending bill, and while the U.S. House has thus far declined to take it up, the senator said he’s optimistic about its passage.

“The world is turning very dangerous right now, and we’re not ready,” he said. “We’ve got to rebuild our industrial base, and in my view this bill principally focuses on that, which is why I’m hopeful that some version of it is going to pass the House. I’m actually optimistic on that front.”

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