Proposal Requiring Congressional Approval of Strike On Iran Rejected

US Congress on Capitol Hill, Washington DC. Photo by Bjoertvedt

A proposal requiring explicit Congressional approval of potential military actions taken in Iran was defeated in a panel vote on Wednesday evening.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee rejected the measure 13-9 in a vote forced by sponsor Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who submitted the proposal as an amendment to a Syrian foreign policy bill. If successful, the legislation would have blocked the White House from using funding to carry out a military strike against Iran unless the action had first been greenlit by Congress.

Cosponsor Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) disclosed afterwards that the proposal had been rejected by every Republican on the committee except for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who also supported similar legislation in October.

According to the text of the amendment, the proposal included exceptions permitting the use of force in the case of, for example, “an imminent threat to the United States,” the deployment of troops in defense of America, or if troops were needed to rescue Americans from danger.

The vote came one day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed House and Senate lawmakers on escalating tensions with Iran.

The New York Times reported on May 13 that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had presented an updated military strategy calling for as many as 120,000 American troops being sent to the Middle East in the event of an attack on American forces by Iran or accelerated work on Iranian nuclear weapons. President Trump denied the report on the following day, saying that “I think it’s fake news, OK?” and claiming that if he decided to take action against Iran, he’d send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

Also on May 13, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Belgium in an attempt to curry support for President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to isolate Iran and cut off its oil exports. Pompeo made a similar trip the previous week to Iraq to lobby top officials there to reduce national energy dependence on Iran.  Neither trip was met with much success, with one senior European diplomat telling a Wall Street Journal reporter that Pompeo wanted a “photo op” in seeking to portray European support for Iran isolation, but that “we declined and stuck to the plan.”  

The US pulled embassy staff in Baghdad out via helicopter on May 15, out of apparent concern over perceived threats from Iran, and American security experts reportedly believe Iran gave its “blessing” to attacks on 4 oil tankers in the region.

After withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iran deal, President Trump has re-imposed all sanctions on Iran previously suspended under the agreement and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist group, a move some top Trump officials warned could provoke retaliation by Tehran against American forces, according to The New York Times. In addition, the Pentagon has deployed an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery and more naval firepower in the gulf region.

President Trump also Tweeted last week that Iran would face eradication should it provoke the United States:

And Reuters reported Wednesday evening that the Department of Defense was considering a military request to send an additional 5,000 troops to the Middle East amid the rising tensions.  

Just Monday, however, the President insisted to reporters that “We have no indication that anything’s happened or will happen,” regarding a threat from Iran, leading some to question the mixed signals from the White House.

“I oscillate between thinking the administration is being quite clever, and almost demonstrating irrationality in order to scare the Iranians into not doing anything stupid — or at least that’s what they think they’re doing — or just genuine total cluelessness, which is what I tend to lean towards,” said Dina Esfandiary, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and the Century Foundation’s Middle East Department.

Sen. Udall condemned the Trump administration’s stance in a speech before the vote on his amendment, stating that “Some members of the Trump foreign policy team seem to be openly hoping to provoke Iran into war.”

“Fortunately,” Udall said, “Congress is a co-equal branch that has the sole authority to declare war – so we don’t have to sit around and watch this administration spiral us into another endless conflict in the Middle East, built on the failed ashes of the Iraq playbook.”

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About TheStig 50 Articles
Likes going in circles but never getting anywhere. So basically politics.