US administration could launch a military strike against Iran without congressional approval, according to US media reports. The administration is relying on key elements drawing links between al-Qaeda and Iran and casting Iran as a terrorist threat to the US.
Sources in the reports indicated that these elements will give Donald Trump's administration the justification it needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval.
President Trump has said more than once that he does not want to wage a war against Iran, however, the reports noted that the possibility of a US military strike against Tehran is still possible. The strike is particularly supported by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to US media reports.
Congress would not give Trump the green light to a strike unless it was needed, as Congress saw it. Most Democrats, and even some Republicans, refuse to engage US forces in another war in the Middle East.
With Congress unlikely to grant Trump new authority to strike Iran under the current circumstances, and amid a campaign of "maximum pressure" against the regime in Tehran, media reports revealed that Trump administration sent strong signals that they will be ready to make an end run around lawmakers, using the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, if necessary.
The use of military force law gave the president the power to use force against “nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
The United States already included some of Iran's organizations, including the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as terrorist organizations, and Trump and his administration can use the hawks to justify a military strike, or even a war with Tehran, without the need for congressional approval.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has accused Iran of assisting al-Qaeda and being linked to a terrorist threat against the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
That could give the US administration the justification it needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval.
Earlier this month, the US deployed an aircraft carrier strike group “Abraham Lincoln” to the region. US officials said that a surge in US forces in the region was a response in part to intelligence-gathering suggesting that the Iranian regime had given proxies a green light to attack US personnel and assets in the region.
Lawyers familiar with the 2001 law and its applications say it's obvious from those moves that the Trump administration is trying to enforce the use-of-force resolution in case the President decided to strike Iran.
Yale University law professor Harold Koh, who served as the State Department's top lawyer under Secretary Hillary Clinton, indicated that the whole thing is building up to the notion that they don't have to go to Congress for approval.
“The theory of war powers has to be that Congress doesn't just sign off once,” said Koh in a telephone interview with NBC News, adding that the “suggestion now that Iran attacked us on 9/11 is ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, Trump pushed back Friday against reports of conflict between Pompeo and Bolton, calling sourcing cited by reporters “bull----.”
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job. Bolton is doing a great job. They make it sound like it’s a conflict,” the president said in a speech to the National Association of Realtors.
“At least Iran doesn’t know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!” Trump said in a tweet.