Trump vetoes resolution seeking to prevent military action against Iran

President Trump has vetoed a resolution aimed at constraining his ability to take military action against Iran.

In a statement Wednesday, Trump said he vetoed the Iran war powers resolution that “purported to direct me to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces in hostilities against Iran.”

“This was a very insulting resolution, introduced by Democrats as part of a strategy to win an election on November 3 by dividing the Republican Party,” Trump added. “The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands.”

“Congress should not have passed this resolution,” he concluded.

Congress is not expected to have the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto.

The move marks the seventh time Trump has used his veto pen, including on a previous war powers resolution related to the U.S. military’s assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war.

Congress passed the Iran war powers resolution nearly two months ago, but it was delayed in being officially sent to the White House as lawmakers stayed out of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic. The House officially enrolled the measure during a pro forma session in April, but the Senate did not enroll it until after the chamber fully returned to town this week.

The House approved the resolution in a 227-186 vote in March as one of its last votes before leaving town. Six Republicans joined with Democrats in approving the measure.

That followed the Senate’s 55-45 approval in February, when eight Republicans voted with Democrats to support the resolution.

Neither chamber’s vote reached the two-thirds threshold needed to override a presidential veto.

“Last year, in President Trump’s State of the Union remarks, he said: ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars,'” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement Wednesday. “But instead of following through on his word, President Trump vetoed legislation that would help avoid unnecessary war in the Middle East. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting to override his veto. Unless there’s a carefully reached consensus in Congress that war is necessary, we should not be sending our troops into harm’s way.”

Congress took up the resolution — which directed the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against” Iran unless Congress specifically authorizes it — after Washington and Tehran appeared to be on the brink of war earlier this year.

U.S.-Iran tensions have risen since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran started gradually stepping back from the deal itself in spring 2019 in a bid to pressure Europe to find a viable workaround to U.S. sanctions or for Trump to relax sanctions.

But hostility skyrocketed in early January with a U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani while he was at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

Iran responded with a rocket attack on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. More than 100 U.S. troops were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries caused by the attack, 29 of whom U.S. Central Command said this week are being awarded Purple Hearts.

In his statement, Trump argued the war powers resolution was based on “misunderstandings of facts and law.”

“Contrary to the resolution, the United States is not engaged in the use of force against Iran,” he said, reiterating his administration’s arguments that the Soleimani strike was allowed under the 2002 authorization for the use of military force passed to approve the Iraq War and the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief. 

Trump also argued the resolution would have “greatly harmed” a president’s ability to protect the United States and its allies.

“The resolution implies that the president’s constitutional authority to use military force is limited to defense of the United States and its forces against imminent attack,” he said. “That is incorrect. We live in a hostile world of evolving threats, and the Constitution recognizes that the president must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response. That’s what I did!”

Since the January strikes, both sides have stepped back from the brink, but tensions linger.

Last month, the U.S. military said 11 Iranian ships repeatedly made “dangerous and harassing approaches” of Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, including getting within 10 yards of a Coast Guard ship.

A week later, Trump threatened to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

The same day as Trump’s tweeted threat, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said it launched its first military satellite into space. Pentagon officials have said the satellite itself is not a threat because it is “tumbling” through space.

The rockets Iran uses for space launches, though, concern U.S. officials. The United States maintains the launches are a cover for ballistic missile development and therefore a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution in which Iran is “called upon” to refrain from ballistic missile activity.

Washington and Tehran are also heading toward a showdown over a United Nations arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October. U.S. officials are pushing for the embargo’s renewal, and on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed a “crushing response” if the United States is successful in extending the embargo.

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Tim Kaine
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