President Donald Trump insists that his strike against a radical Islamic terror leader was neccessary — but Democrats are furious.
He also warned Iraq that he would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed a top radical Islamic terrorist.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing back, in what’s expected to be a pivotal week as lawmakers return from a holiday recess.
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Pelosi said late Sunday the House would introduce and vote this week on a war powers resolution to limit the president’s military actions regarding Iran. In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi called the airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and said it had “endangered our servicemembers, diplomats, and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.”
She’s not alone. On Monday, two top Senate Democrats called on Trump to immediately declassify the administration’s reasoning for the strike on the Iranian official, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying there is “no legitimate justification” for keeping the information from the public.
Soleimani is directly responsible for the deaths and injuries of hundreds — if not thousands — of American military veterans. He was also the leader behind the recent U.S. embassy attack in Baghdad, where armed Iranian-back militias attempted to storm the compound to kidnap and/or kill U.S. diplomats.
Democrats have complained that Trump did not provide advance notice of his airstrike on Soleimani in Baghdad. Trump, however, met the 48-hour deadline required by the War Powers Act to notify Congress after the deadly drone strike. The document was classified and no public version was released.
The administration is also expected to brief lawmakers on its actions this week.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, speaking Monday on “Fox & Friends,” dismissed the Democrats condemnation as “partisan action.”
Iran has vowed to retaliate for Trump’s targeted killing of Soleimani. It has sparked outrage in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where more than 5,000 American troops are still on the ground 17 years after the U.S. invasion. Iraq’s parliament voted Sunday in favor of a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of the American forces.
Trump first raised the prospect of targeting Iranian cultural sites Saturday in a tweet. Speaking with reporters Sunday as he flew back to Washington from his holiday in Florida, he refused to back down, despite international prohibitions.
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.
On Iraq, Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t leave Iraq without being paid for its military investments there over the years — then said if the troops do have to withdraw, he would hit Baghdad with economic penalties.
“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he said. “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”
He added: “We’re not leaving until they pay us back for it.”
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The killing of Soleimani marked a stark escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. military may well strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates. He tip-toed around questions about Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, a military action that likely would be illegal under the laws of armed conflict and the U.N. charter.
Pompeo defended the targeted killing of Soleimani, saying the administration would have been “culpably negligent” in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed him.
Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans, the administration said.
Schumer said Trump lacks the authority to engage militarily with Iran and Congress needs a new war powers resolution “to be a check on this president.” To which Pompeo said: “We have all the authority we need to do what we’ve done to date.”
Trump made clear Sunday that he saw little reason to give Congress advanced warning if he orders the military to carry out further actions against Iran.
“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
In response, the Democrat-led House Foreign Affairs Committee tweeted: “This Media Post will serve as a reminder that war powers reside in the Congress under the United States Constitution. And that you should read the War Powers Act. And that you’re not a dictator.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article