Key War Amendments Subject of Upcoming Congressional Negotiations

Over the next few weeks, key legislators in Congress will negotiate the final details of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that is viewed as a “must-pass” piece of legislation. Those negotiations will determine the fate of several amendments that passed the House of Representatives, including several supported by NIAC Action to prevent a war with Iran.

This week, NIAC Action joined more than 60 organizations in signing a letter calling on Congressional negotiators to support the repeal of the 2002 authorization for use of military force that Congress passed to authorize the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2002. As the letter – spearheaded by our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – states, “leaving the 2002 Iraq AUMF in place renders it susceptible to misuse by this or a future president.” The administration has, concerningly, held open the possibility that it could utilize the 2001 or 2002 authorization as a legal green light for war with Iran. NIAC Action supported the amendment, which passed the House and is now a subject for negotiations with the Senate for final passage. 

NIAC Action additionally continues to strongly support the amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that would clarify that the Trump administration does not have Congressional authorization for military action against Iran. This week, ten high-ranking retired military officers drafted a letter to Congress calling for the Khanna-Gaetz amendment’s passage in the final NDAA. According to the letter from military veterans, organized by VoteVets, “The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum.” The amendment successfully passed the House and garnered the support of a majority in the Senate

NIAC Action will continue to closely track these amendments and argue forcefully for Congress to make clear that Trump cannot take us to an unauthorized war with Iran.

Please see the full text of the coalition letter on the 2002 authorization below.


September 10, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe
Chairman, Armed Services Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jack Reed
Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Adam Smith
Chairman, Armed Services Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mac Thornberry
Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

 

Re: 2002 Iraq AUMF Repeal Provision in National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We, the undersigned, are a diverse group of organizations with a range of missions and perspectives from across the ideological spectrum. As you work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA), we strongly urge you to retain in the conference version of the bill the provision from the House passed bill, H.R. 2500, to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (2002 Iraq AUMF) (PL 107–243). This provision is included in H.R. 2500 as Section 1270W.

Repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF would reassert Congress’ constitutional duty to determine whether and when the United States chooses war. It would remove an outdated force authorization that is not required for any ongoing operations, while protecting against its abuse by this or any future president to justify unforeseen and unauthorized new wars.

Congress passed the 2002 Iraq AUMF to authorize force against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime in order to defend the United States against the threat posed by the regime’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.[1] While this threat proved unfounded, the mission undertaken pursuant to the 2002 Iraq AUMF – designated “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – began on March 20, 2003, and officially ended on December 11, 2011.

Since this time, the 2002 Iraq AUMF has been repurposed by successive presidents for military activities unrelated to the Saddam Hussein regime. Both the Trump and Obama administrations have used the 2002 Iraq AUMF as supplemental authority for operations that they have claimed are being conducted pursuant to the 2001 AUMF in Iraq and Syria, including operations against ISIS.[2]

Repealing this outdated authorization would put an end to such unconstitutional repurposing of war authorizations without impacting current operations. The 2002 Iraq AUMF has never been cited as the sole authority to justify any current U.S. military operations. Indeed, Acting State Department Legal Adviser Marik String testified in a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he was “not aware” of any situation where the administration was relying solely on the 2002 Iraq AUMF for present military operations.[3]

Yet leaving the 2002 Iraq AUMF in place renders it susceptible to misuse by this or a future president. Last year the administration claimed that the 2002 Iraq AUMF authorized the use of force to address “threats to, or stemming from, Iraq” in “in Syria or elsewhere.”[4] This dangerous interpretation goes far beyond congressional intent and serves as a ticking time bomb that paves the way for the Executive Branch to draw the United States into further wars that were not even contemplated, let alone authorized, 17 years ago. Any new war must be specifically approved by Congress, as required under the Constitution.

Article I of the Constitution vests in Congress—as the branch most accountable to the American people—the responsibility to determine whether, when, and where to go to war. Congress should seize the opportunity to exercise its constitutional war powers by repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF. This would remove an unnecessary force authorization and ensure that it cannot be exploited by the Executive Branch to start new, unauthorized wars.

We strongly urge you to retain in the conference version of the NDAA Section 1270W of H.R. 2500 to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Cc: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House and Senate NDAA Conferees

Sincerely,

About Face: Veterans Against the War
Action Corps
Action Corps NYC
Action Corps, Indianapolis
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
Antiwar.com
Avaaz Bridges Faith Initiative Campaign for liberty
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for International Policy Center for Victims of Torture
Center on Conscience & War Coalition for Peace Action
CODEPINK
Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy
Common Defense
Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Justice Action Network
Environmentalists Against War
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Foreign Policy for America
Franciscan Action Network
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Human Rights First
Indivisible
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Just Foreign Policy
Justice for Muslims
Collective Libertarian Institute
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Iranian American Council
National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Nonviolence International
Peace Action
Peace Corps Iran Association
Peace Tax Foundation
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Project On Government Oversight
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
The Yemen Peace Project
Truman Center for National Policy
United Church of Christ United for Peace and Justice
VoteVets
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions
World BEYOND War

[1] For more on the legislative history of the 2002 Iraq AUMF see Tess Bridgeman, “Now is the Time to Repeal the 2002 AUMF,” July 11, 2019, https://www.justsecurity.org/64885/now-is-the-time-to-repeal-the-2002-aumf/.

[2] Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, March 16, 2019, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4411804/3-18-WarPowers-Transparency-Report.pdf; Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, December 5, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/05/fact-sheet-presidential-memorandum-legal-andpolicy-transparency. 

[3] Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reviewing Authorities for the Use of Military Force, July 24, 2019, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/reviewing-authorities-for-the-use-of-military-force-072419.

[4] Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, March 16, 2018, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4411804/3-18-WarPowers-Transparency-Report.pdf.

Clinton Should Double Down on Iran Diplomacy, Not Containment

Press Release - For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after Secretary Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference:

We commend Secretary Clinton for reaffirming her support for the landmark nuclear deal with Iran should she win the presidency. Secretary Clinton played a critical role in supporting the deal during the Congressional review this past summer and she will likely be the only candidate at AIPAC praising the deal. The Iranian-American community deeply appreciates her principled position in favor of the deal. However, saying that “Iran’s fingerprints are on every conflict in the Middle East” without acknowledging the culpability of some of our closest allies — a culpability that President Obama openly admits — socializes our allies into thinking their bad behavior delivers results and they can get away with anything.

At a time when President Obama is seeking to make his historic Iran policy change as irreversible as possible, we are concerned by Secretary Clinton downplaying the possibility of a larger diplomatic opening. Rather than following President Obama’s lead in acknowledging the challenges while emphasizing the need for diplomacy across the board, Secretary Clinton needlessly reduces the requisite political space to make a peaceful diplomatic opening with Iran come to fruition should the opportunity present itself during her potential presidency. It is indeed ironic that while President Obama is in Cuba reaping the fruits of engagement, many of the Presidential hopefuls are at AIPAC redoubling on the containment policy that neither produced a breakthrough with Cuba nor Iran.  

 
We commend Secretary Clinton’s call for standing with the Iranian people. But doing so requires further dialogue between the two peoples and two governments, not less. It requires taking steps to make clear that lifting the U.S. trade embargo is possible if Iran is willing to reciprocate with steps of equal value. These are the steps that will allow the American and Iranian people to build bridges. IRGC provocations such as missile tests are a trap to keep us on the path of confrontation and ensure Americans and Iranians can never stand together. Secretary Clinton should take a page from President Obama’s playbook and craft her responses accordingly. Any deviation from Obama’s prudent and wise rhetoric and diplomacy will risk the significant progress achieved in the past few years.

 

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Congress Should Support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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The Deal Cuts Off Iran’s Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon

  • The time it would take Iran to enrich sufficient uranium for a single nuclear device is increased from 2-3 months to a full year for a decade.
  • Iran reduces its installed centrifuges by two-thirds for a decade.
  • Iran’s enrichment level is capped at 3.67%, far below weapons grade.
  • Iran’s uranium stockpile is cut by 97% to 300 kg for fifteen years, a fraction of the amount needed for a single nuclear weapon with further enrichment.
  • The core of the Arak reactor is destroyed and Iran redesigns the facility so that it will not produce weapons grade plutonium.
  • Iran foregoes reprocessing and ships out all spent fuel from Arak and future reactors.
     

The Agreement Imposes the Strongest Inspection Regime Ever Negotiated

  • The agreement is fully verifiable. If Iran tries to break out, it will be detected.
  • Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle will be closely monitored, including via a dedicated procurement channel and IAEA inspections of enrichment facilities, the Arak reactor, uranium mines and mills, and centrifuge production facilities.
     
  • Iran will implement and eventually ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol, ensuring that inspectors can access any suspicious site – including military sites – when they need to.
  • If Iran objects to IAEA access to a suspicious site, Iran has 24 days to permit access or have the matter referred to the UN Security Council, which can snap back sanctions.
  • 24 days is not sufficient to hide evidence of a covert enrichment facility, where traces of nuclear material could be detected months or years thereafter.
  • “Anytime, anywhere” access – as demanded by some critics – is neither necessary nor achievable.
     

Key Provisions of the Deal Last for Decades, and Some Forever

  • The ratification of the IAEA Additional Protocol will lock in intrusive inspections indefinitely, including at suspicious sites. This measure will last forever.
     
  • Iran’s commitments not to ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons, to forego reprocessing, and to ship out spent fuel at the Arak reactor or any future reactors do not end.
     
  • The IAEA will have continuous monitoring of Iran’s uranium mines and mills for 25 years, and at centrifuge production facilities for 20 years.
     
  • Many limitations on enrichment – including the cap on enrichment threshold and on the size of Iran’s uranium stockpile – last for 15 years.
     

The Deal Could Facilitate New Diplomatic Opportunities

  • This deal depends on verification, not trust, to ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. But it does open many opportunities to advance U.S. interests and security beyond the nuclear issue if further diplomacy is pursued.
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader, Foreign Minister and head of the Supreme National Security Council have all indicated that if the nuclear agreement is successful, Iran is willing to negotiate on other matters, including regional security issues.
  • Such openness could extend to areas of potential strategic convergence, like Afghanistan and Iraq, and divergence, such as Syria and Yemen. 
  • A successful resolution of the nuclear issue will empower Iran’s political moderates in addition to the Iranian people, who can press their leadership for both internal and external moderation.
     

The Alternatives are Grim

  • Without a deal, Iran’s breakout timeline could shrink from 2-3 months to less than a month, approaching an undetectable threshold.
     
  • Without a deal, the Arak reactor could come online in about a year without alterations and produce sufficient plutonium, if separated, for multiple nuclear weapons each year thereafter.
  • Rejecting a deal would unravel international enforcement of the sanctions regime. Constraints on and inspections of Iran’s nuclear program would diminish, or disappear altogether if Iran pulls out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
     
  • Military strikes cannot destroy Iran’s nuclear know-how, could only set Iran’s nuclear program back by a year or two, and would likely incentivize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear deterrent.