Defense

Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions

A bipartisan group of senators called on President Trump to explain his decision to deploy troops to the Middle East and warning that Congress hasn't authorized military action against Iran. 

 

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), saying they are "concerned' that escalating U.S.-Iran tensions will lead to a military conflict. 

 

"We remain concerned that increasingly escalatory actions by both sides will lead to an unnecessary conflict. Given that growing risk, we want to reiterate that, as of this date, Congress has not authorized war with Iran and no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran," the senators wrote.

 

They added that they "expect" the Trump administration would come to Congress for a military authorization before they deploy forces "into hostilities or areas where hostilities with Iran are imminent" and stick to "legitimate principles of self-defense" absent congressional authorization.

 

"We request a joint Defense, State and Intelligence Community briefing by the end of June to address these policy and legal issues," the senators write.   

 

The letter to Trump comes after acting Defense Secretary announced on Monday night that the administration will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. 

 

U.S.-Iran tensions are running high after Tehran's nuclear agency announced it will soon exceed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile unless Europe intervenes, and in the wake of an attack on oil tankers near the strategic chokepoint of the Straight of Hormuz, which the Trump administration blames on Tehran.

 

Senators are getting a new round of briefings from the administration, including a top State Department official meeting with Senate Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday. 

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said key committees would also be getting briefings. 

 

The letter to Trump comes as the Senate is expected to start debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this week. 

 

Paul, Kaine, Murphy, Merkley and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) have filed an amendment to the bill to prevent unauthorized military operations against Iran. Some senators worry that the administration would try to use the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to cover a conflict with Iran. 

 

"No funds may be used to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran, against the armed forces of Iran or in the territory of Iran except pursuant to an act or a joint resolution of Congress specifically authorizing such hostilities," the amendment reads. 

 

With hundreds of amendments filed to the NDAA, it's unclear if it will be able to get a vote.

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