News & Politics

Pelosi Moves to Tie Trump's Hands on Iran With War Powers Vote

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to fellow Democrats announcing a forthcoming resolution to tie President Donald Trump’s hands on Iran. Pelosi argued that the airstrike against the late Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani was a “disproportionate” response to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) announced a similar resolution on Sunday, but it seems Pelosi was announcing a separate effort.

“Last week, the Trump Administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials,” Pelosi’s letter began. “This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.”

“As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe. For this reason, we are concerned that the Administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution,” she added.

“This week, the House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran,” she announced. “This resolution is similar to the resolution introduced by Senator Tim Kaine in the Senate. It reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.”

Pelosi designated Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA and Department of Defense analyst specializing in Shia militias, to lead the effort.

Omar and Lee had already drafted a resolution to accompany the resolution authored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in the Senate, however.

“Let’s not mince words: the assassination of Qasem Soleimani was an act of war undertaken without Congressional authorization, in violation of the Constitution of the United States of America,” Omar said in a statement. “Following the assassination, thousands of additional troops were sent to the Middle East in one of the largest rapid deployments seen in decades. This follows years of saber-rattling and threats of war against Iran by President Trump and his accomplices. We in Congress must exercise our Constitutional duty—and do everything in our power to stop another disastrous war.”

Republicans shot back against Pelosi’s claims.

“Speaker Pelosi says the Soleimani operation was disproportionate. Apparently, the murder of 608 Americans in Iraq, recent direct rocket attacks on US bases, and an embassy attack isn’t enough for her,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) tweeted. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) retweeted his message. “It was right for [President Donald Trump] to defend America.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) shared an article by former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), defending Trump’s order to take out Soleimani as “morally, constitutionally and strategically correct” and deserving of “more bipartisan support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far from my fellow Democrats.”

“The claim by some Democrats that Mr. Trump had no authority to order this attack without congressional approval is constitutionally untenable and practically senseless,” Lieberman wrote. “Authority to act quickly to eliminate a threat to the U.S. is inherent in the powers granted to the president by the Constitution. It defies common sense to argue that the president must notify Congress or begin a formal process of authorization before acting on an imminent threat.”

The U.S. airstrike killed Soleimani in Iraq, and the Pentagon claimed that the Quds Force leader was planning an imminent attack on U.S. forces in the country. Further intelligence pointed to Soleimani as an instigator of the siege of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was arguably an act of war. The Quds Force leader created, supported, and directed a network of terrorist organizations across the Middle East, supporting the dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and training militias in Iraq during the Iraq War. Those militias killed more than 600 American soldiers since 2003.

“In another time, this would have been a just cause for an American war against Iran, and certainly for trying to eliminate Soleimani. Within Iran, the Quds Force has worked with the supreme leader to suppress freedom and economic opportunity, jail dissident politicians and journalists, and kill protesters in the streets,” Lieberman added.

“On many occasions President Obama sensibly ordered drone strikes on dangerous terrorist leaders, including U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki,” the former senator noted. “He did so without specific congressional authorization, and without significant Democratic opposition. Mr. Obama also ‘brought justice’ to Osama bin Laden without prior, explicit congressional approval.”

Cruz praised this article as an “important call for bipartisanship from Joe Lieberman. Sadly, much of the hysteria from 2020 Dems stems from anti-Trump hatred. Nobody wants a land war in Iran—it’s not going to happen—but killing terrorists who are trying to kill Americans makes us safer.”

In rushing to tie Trump’s hands, Pelosi may be sacrificing the lives of American soldiers in her relentless political battle against the president. Broadly speaking, America and Iran have been at war since 1979, when the mullahs’ forces stormed the U.S. Embassy and took hostages. A full-blown military conflict remains unlikely, but Trump has wide discretion to respond to attacks like the recent storming of the embassy and other threats against U.S. troops overseas.

As for Omar, she has hired staff from the National American-Iranian Council (NAIC), which has been described as Iran’s lobby in Congress. NAIC claims to represent Americans of Persian ancestry, rather than the interests of the mullahs, but it supported the Iran Deal and has corresponded with Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s permanent representative to the U.N.

In opposing Trump on the airstrikes, Pelosi may be advancing Iran’s interests in Congress, shortly after militias backed by the Islamic Republic stormed a U.S. embassy. This partisanship seems very dangerous indeed.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.