- Alessandra Savarese ’21
The airstrike ordered by President Trump on January 3rd created an international shockwave with the death of General Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force and second in command of the Iranian government. This provocation enraged Iran due to Soleimani’s popularity among the Iranian people, causing them to aggressively target the United States. With many media platforms showing clips of people in Iran chanting “Death to America,” it can make one wonder, why would our government and Administration allow this to happen?
A driving issue at the core of the airstrike in Iran is the involvement of Congress in decisions of taking action to foreign threats. Having Congress take part in making decisions on whether to attack foreign threats is a fundamental part of the system of checks and balances put in place to keep each branch of government in check. The legislative branch has the sole power to initiate war. But, this system has slowly shifted by continuously having Presidents initiate war without consulting Congress first. In the case of the airstrike that killed General Soleimani, President Trump had not consulted with any congressional leadership. GOP Senator Rand Paul tweeted on this matter saying, “A war without a Congressional declaration is a recipe for feckless intermittent eruptions of violence with no clear mission for our soldiers.” Paul recognizes the danger that comes with not having Congressional approval when it comes to wartime powers. This approach goes against the protocol set in place because the President did not meet with Congress before sending the airstrike to Iran. The only exception to technically not have to meet with Congress is if there was an impending threat against the U.S., but there would still be some kind of obligation by the President to meet with Congress despite the threats. The Trump Administration claimed that there was an impending threat which was the motivation to send the airstrike, but after the attack, the intelligence coming back gave no evidence that there was an impending threat. At the intelligence briefings, feelings of confusion and shock ensued over many GOP senators due to the lack of transparency and withholding of information. Generally speaking, over the past decades, Congress’ powers of initiating war has been undertaken by the President. There should have been some form of briefing on what to do with General Soleimani that included Congress. By having Congress included, this could have given a different way about dealing with the ever-present threat of General Soleimani. Fortunately, many figures have been making productive resolutions to help repair the wartime powers back to Congress, including Senator Tim Kaine’s bipartisan resolution. Senator Kaine expects to set a clear boundary with the President and Congress to make sure President Trump appoints Congress before advancing in any more action with Iran.
Other than Congress, another major obstacle President Trump looked past was the approval by the United Nations. The United Nations witnessed a similar experience with President Trump by not having him seek approval of sending an airstrike to Iran. Trump needed to seek approval of any sort of action towards Iran through the United Nations Security Council. It is International and Domestic Law for any significant action against a country to be passed through Congress and then through the United Nations Security Council.
Photo from ABC News