Trump notifies Congress on Syria airstrikes, vows to take necessary further action | News | DW | 09.04.2017
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Trump notifies Congress on Syria airstrikes, vows to take necessary further action

US President Donald Trump has claimed that the US military attack on a Syrian air base was in the country's "vital national interests." The legality of the airstrikes remains a grey area.

US President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed in a letter addressed to both houses of Congress that his decision to order a military strike on a Syrian air base was taken in "vital national security and foreign policy interests" of the United States.

In what appeared to be an ominous warning to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Trump vowed in the letter that he would "take additional action, as necessary and appropriate" - remarks that echo UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's speech on Friday to the UN Security Council.

Read more: Seven decades, seven facts: US policy on Syria in brief

The US launched a barrage of Tomahawk missiles overnight on Thursday on a Syrian air base in Shayrat.

Trump said the attack was in retaliation for an alleged chemical strike earlier this week on the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people.

The intention of the letter, Trump said, was to keep Congress fully informed of future actions as stipulated in the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which mandates the president to notify Congress of military action.

Mulling the legality of Trump's attack on Syria

Although Trump has won widespread support for the military strike both domestically and internationally, its legality remains hazy.

The president has faced bipartisan pushback insisting that he should have sought congressional approval before ordering the attack on Shayrat.

According to the War Powers Act, any ruling administration should seek what is known as an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) from Congress.

However, presidents have successfully laid out different standards of what constitutes "hostilities" meriting congressional approval. Broadly, these standards pose the question whether military action is overwhelmingly in the US' national interest or whether it is planned out to be limited in time and scope.

President Barack Obama applied these criteria to sidestep congressional approval in launching the US action in Libya in 2011.

Read more: Obama calls Libya his 'worst mistake'

And while Congress does still hold significant powers that could limit the president's going to war, such as cutting off military funds, its move to acquiesce to military action in the post-9/11 era means that there is little chance of it restricting any actions Trump may choose to pursue in Syria.

dm/kl (AP, AFP)