Congress Must Rein in Trump’s War Cabinet

Trump has stacked his cabinet with Iran warhawks, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal that is successfully guarding against Iranian nuclear weapons and – according to recent reports – Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton and the President himself sought plans from the Pentagon to attack Iran.

These developments are dire and, barring Congressional intervention, the U.S. may launch yet another ill-advised war of choice that could haunt the U.S. and Middle East for generations.

The 116th Congress must investigate the Trump administration’s war plans for Iran, impose legal and political restraints to block an unconstitutional war with Iran and take steps to salvage the nuclear accord.

Bolton Asked for War Options Against Iran

  • John Bolton asked the Pentagon to prepare options to strike Iran in September – an act of war that has not been authorized by Congress.
  • The options considered reportedly included “a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility” as well as “options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well.”
  • The response rattled national security officials, with one former official warning that it was “mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
  • voicing deepening fears” that Bolton “could precipitate a conflict with Iran.”

Mattis Scuttled Bolton’s War Push

  • The strikes were contemplated after two attacks in Iraq attributed to Shia militias tied to Iran – neither of which led to damage or casualties. It is unclear if Iran knew of the attack or to what extent it is tied to the militias involved.
  • In one attack, “mortar bombs landed inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy is located.” A second involved a rocket attack on the airport near Basra, near to where the U.S. consulate was located. That incident followed raucous protests in Basra that led to the torching of the Iranian consulate.
  • U.S. officials warned it would hold Iran accountable, saying “Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.”
  • The push to strike Iran directly over this murky affair was strongly opposed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other Pentagon officials, who argued successfully that the attacks were “insignificant.”

The President Reportedly Pushed Mattis to Sink Iranian Ships

  • In 2017, “Trump repeatedly asked his national security team for plans to blow up Iranian fast boats” patrolling the Persian Gulf.
  • Following a promise on the campaign trail to shoot Iranian ships “out of the water,” Trump was “incredulous” that the U.S. hadn’t sunk Iranian boats that have often had close run ins with U.S. ships, which he thought was a “humiliation and sign of weakness.”
  • Fortunately, 2017 saw fewer run ins between Iranian and U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf, as the sinking of an Iranian ship could spark a major regional conflagration.

Trump Is Seeking to Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal

  • Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and snap back sanctions – which was finalized in November – puts at risk severe limitations and comprehensive inspections over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Iran has warned that it could respond to the provocation by expanding its nuclear program or limiting the access of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • By killing Iran’s benefit from the deal, the Trump administration appears to be baiting Iran to escalate its nuclear program – which Bolton could use to put his war plans in motion.
  • By targeting our allies with sanctions for seeking to uphold a UN Security Council-endorsed agreement that the U.S. negotiated, Trump has undermined U.S. leadership and sapped America’s diplomatic power.
  • In order to forestall a push to war, re-secure vital nonproliferation safeguards and restore U.S. diplomatic credibility, Congress should push for the U.S. to return to compliance with the deal.

Trump Has Assembled A War Cabinet

  • Bolton previously published an op-ed entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” and promised a cult-like group that was designated as a terrorist organization until 2011 that they would celebrate regime change in Iran by the end of 2018.
  • Mike Pompeo pushed 2,000 bombing sorties on Iran as an alternative to nuclear negotiations in 2014, suggested that the U.S. pursue regime change in Iran, and  encouraged Trump to first decertify and then kill the nuclear accord.
  • James Mattis, the so-called “adult in the room,” is no longer there to push back on ill-advised military strikes in Iran.
  • Trump himself has tweeted in all caps against Iran, warning “YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Trump Has an Expansive View of War Powers

  • The Trump administration did not seek Congressional authorization prior to launching strikes on the Assad regime in Syria both in 2017 and 2018.
  • In later justifying its strikes, the Trump administration stated that the action did not risk rising up to the level of a “war” and that the administration could conduct strikes in the national interest, thus the administration did not seek approval from Congress.

Congress Must Rein in Trump on Iran

  • Failure to rein in Trump and his war cabinet could lead to a military confrontation with a nation of 80 million that is nearly four times the size of Iraq.
  • Congress should investigate Bolton’s request for war options against Iran as well as the murky events in Iraq that precipitated the request. Sec. Mattis is no longer in a position to scuttle Bolton’s half-baked plans for war.
  • Congress should impose political and legal restraints on the administration’s ability to start a war with Iran. Last year, legislation was introduced (the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act – S. 3517/H.R. 7277) to prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to launch a war against Iran without Congressional approval.
  • Congress should push for a return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal in order to shore up vital nonproliferation safeguards and restore American diplomatic credibility.
  • The American people do not want another war under a reckless administration – the 116th Congress must act without delay to rein in Trump on Iran.

About Author

NIACNIACLearn more about the NIAC staff here.
Connect with Me: