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US lawmakers back limits to Trump's war powers

January 10, 2020

President Trump's decision to kill a senior Iranian general "endangered Americans," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As the resolution makes its way to the Senate, two Republicans have pledged support for it.

A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II sits on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) while Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), prepare for flight operations
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/U.S. Marine Corps

The US House of Representatives on Thursday voted in favor of a resolution to curb President Donald Trump's ability to wage war against Iran.

The vote was mostly split along party lines, with 224 in favor and 194 against in the Democrat-controlled legislature.

"Last week, in our view, the president — the administration — conducted a provocative, disproportionate attack against Iran, which endangered Americans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters.

Read more: Why the US and Iran are not at war

The largely symbolic resolution was put forward in response to Trump's unilateral decision to assassinate Iran's Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani, considered one of the Islamic Republic's most important battlefield commanders.

Introduced as a "concurrent resolution," the measure, if passed in the Senate, would not become law but rather serve as a formal reprimand of the president's Iran strategy. 

A picture published by the media office of the Iraqi military's joint operations forces on their official Facebook page shows a destroyed vehicle on fire following a US strike on January 3, 2020 on Baghdad international airport road in which top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed along with eight others, including the deputy head of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force
The killing of Qassem Soleimani threatened to plunge the region into a new warImage: AFP/Iraqi Military

Democrats based their text on the existing War Powers Resolution of 1973, which requires the president to seek congressional approval to take the country to war.

The measure "directs the president to terminate the use of United States armed forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military."

Read more: Iran's attack on Iraqi airbases 'almost a de-escalatory response'

It still allows the use of force to prevent an "imminent" attack against the US.

When asked if he would seek congressional approval to continue military action in Iran, Trump said he would not.

"And you shouldn't have to," he said, "because you have to make split-second decisions sometimes."

Preventing 'another forever war'

Although the majority of Republicans in the lower house voted against the resolution, three backed it, including Matt Gaetz of Florida, who is considered one of Trump's most ardent supporters in Congress.

"Engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision," Gaetz said. "If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress we ought to have the courage to vote for them or against them."

Read more: Germany split on path forward in US-Iran conflict

The resolution will now head to the Senate, where Republicans command a three-seat majority. But two Republican Senators have already expressed their support for the resolution.

"To come in and tell us that we can't debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran? It's un-American, it's unconstitutional and it's wrong," said Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Pulling back from the brink

The US killing of Soleimani on the outskirts of Baghdad last week sent shock waves across the region and the globe, with observers fearing it could trigger an all-out military confrontation.

Iran responded days later by launching ballistic missiles at the US' presence in Iraq, including the Ain Assad airbase. The attack caused minimal damage and resulted in no casualties.

A day after Iran's attack, Trump said the US would not further escalate the confrontation, saying Iran appeared to be "standing down."

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kp, ls/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters)