Senators Should Support Sen. Sullivan’s Amendment In Wake Of Latest Iranian Attacks On U.S. Forces

LEADER McCONNELL: ‘Tehran Wants To Push Us Out Of Iraq And Syria. Why Should Congress Make That Easier? While The Senate’s Been Engaged In This Abstract, Theoretical Debate About Rolling Back American Power, Iran Has Continued Its Deadly Attacks On Us…. Some In America May Think Our War Against Terrorism Is Sunsetting, But Clearly The Terrorists Do Not Agree.’


SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East. Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us. And when we deploy our servicemembers in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can. Last week, the Senate began debating the potential repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It’s no surprise that Leader Schumer and the Biden Administration would rather debate the history of the Iraq War than grapple with their own recent foreign policy failures. But the 2002 AUMF bears directly on the threats we face today in Iraq and Syria from Iran-backed terrorists. Iraq has come under extremely heavy influence and manipulation from Iran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has spent years standing up political parties, militias, and terrorist proxies in Iraq whose chief loyalty is to Tehran. Our enemies in Iran who have spent two decades targeting and killing Americans in the Middle East would be delighted to see America dial down our military presence, authorities, and activities in Iraq. Tehran wants to push us out of Iraq and Syria. Why should Congress make that easier? While the Senate’s been engaged in this abstract, theoretical debate about rolling back American power, Iran has continued its deadly attacks on us. Just last week a suspected Iranian attack killed one American and wounded six more in Syria. Some in America may think our war against terrorism is sunsetting, but clearly the terrorists do not agree.” (Sen. McConnell, Press Release, 3/28/2023)

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK), Senate Armed Services Committee Member: “I’ve warned my colleagues that removing the 2002 AUMF that supported the killing of Soleimani—head of the Iranian terrorist-designated Quds Force—would embolden Iran to continue targeting, wounding and killing Americans. Now, they’re at it again. All week, the Senate has been debating a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF, which sends exactly the wrong signal to the terrorists in Iran. At the very least, my colleagues should support my amendment to make it 100% clear the US has the authority to retaliate against Iranian threats. My amendment also requires the [Director of National Intelligence] to certify the AUMF repeal will not degrade U.S.-led deterrence against Iranian aggression before it is implemented. Based on the attack yesterday, I hope all my colleagues will support my amendment.” (Sen. Sullivan, @SenDanSullivan, Twitter, 3/24/2023)


Over The Past Week, Iranian Proxies Launched At Least FOUR Attacks On U.S. Forces In The Middle East

“A U.S. service member was wounded in a series of new attacks Friday targeting U.S. bases in Syria following Thursday's fatal drone attack on a U.S. base, a U.S. official confirmed to CBS News. On Thursday, a U.S. contractor was killed — and five U.S. service members and a second U.S. contractor wounded — when a suspected Iranian drone hit a coalition base in Syria, according to U.S. officials. … Two of the U.S. service members wounded in Thursday's attack were treated on site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq, the Pentagon said. President Biden expressed his condolences to the families of the Americans during a visit to Canada on Friday and said the U.S. would not hesitate to retaliate against Iranian aggression.” (“Several More Attacks Against U.S. Bases In Syria After Alleged Iranian Drone Kills American Contractor, Drawing Airstrikes,” CBS News, 3/24/2023)

“Following that initial attack, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that U.S. Central Command forces retaliated with ‘precision airstrikes’ against facilities in eastern Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The Defense Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle used in the Thursday attack was of Iranian origin.” (“Several More Attacks Against U.S. Bases In Syria After Alleged Iranian Drone Kills American Contractor, Drawing Airstrikes,” CBS News, 3/24/2023)

  • The U.S. official told CBS News that there were another three attacks Friday on U.S. military bases in Syria since the retaliatory U.S. airstrikes. A U.S. service member was wounded in one of those three attacks, the official said. U.S. officials confirmed one of the three new attacks targeted an American base southeast of the Syrian province of Der el-Zour on Friday, saying there were ‘lots of rockets’ fired, but no known U.S. casualties. Reports surfaced that a missile salvo had targeted a U.S. base near the Al-Omar oil field. The Reuters news agency and local media, including a pro-Iran outlet based in Lebanon, first reported the strike. Photos and reports on social media suggested at least one missile had missed the intended target, hitting homes in the region instead.” (“Several More Attacks Against U.S. Bases In Syria After Alleged Iranian Drone Kills American Contractor, Drawing Airstrikes,” CBS News, 3/24/2023)


Hours Before The Latest Attacks, The Commander Of U.S. Central Command Testified That Iranian Proxies Have Attacked U.S. Forces 78 TIMES Since January 1, 2021

“Iranian-backed militias have launched dozens of attacks at or near bases where U.S. troops are in the past year alone. Since January 2021, Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, the head of the Central Command, said Iran-backed groups had carried out 78 attacks against Americans before Thursday’s strike.” (“Conflict in Syria Escalates Following Attack That Killed a U.S. Contractor,” The New York Times, 3/24/2023)

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): “A second line of questioning, how often are you under attack from Iran with the unmanned aerial vehicles? Is it weekly, monthly? Can you give us a feel for how often you're being attacked?”
GEN. MICHAEL KURILLA, Commander of U.S. Central Command: “It is -- it is periodic. We see periods where they will do more. There has been a number since 1 January 2021. The number is about 78 times that we have been attacked.”
REP. BACON: “Seventy-eight times we've been attacked out of -- and are these UAVs flying out of Iran and striking us, or are they being used by militias controlled by humans?”
GEN. KURILLA: “Congressman, so what Iran does to hide its hand, is they use Iranian proxies, that's -- that's either UAVs or -- or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria.”
REP. BACON: “Are these considered acts of war by Iran?”
GEN. KURILLA: “They are being done by the Iranian proxies, is what I would tell you, Congressman.” (U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Hearing, 3/23/2023)


REMINDER: Prior Administrations Have Repeatedly Cited The 2002 AUMF As An Important Legal Authority In Actions Against Iranian Militias, IRGC-Qods Force Leader Qassem Soleimani, ISIS, And Al Qaeda In Iraq

“[I]n 2014, the Obama administration initiated airstrikes targeting the emerging Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in both Iraq and Syria. The administration relied initially on Article II of the U.S. Constitution, but eventually started advancing legal arguments grounded primarily in the 2001 AUMF that Congress enacted after the September 11th terrorist attacks but secondarily on the 2002 AUMF. The executive branch has since argued that the language of the 2002 AUMF, which permitted action taken against threats from Iraq, could support combatting terrorist threats in Iraq; subsequent congressional appropriation of funds for these operations were cited as ratification for these legal arguments. The Trump administration continued relying on the 2002 AUMF as supporting authority for the counter-ISIL campaign. But it also cited it as legal authority for targeting Iran-backed militias in Iraq as well as the 2020 strike that killed Iranian official Qassem Soleimani.” (“The 2002 Iraq AUMF: Interpretation and Possible Repeal,” Session 25 of the Congressional Study Group, Brookings Institution, 12/29/2022)

  • WILLIAM S. CASTLE, Former Defense Department Acting General Counsel: “Although the primary focus of the 2002 AUMF was Saddam Hussein’s regime, under its express goals, the statute has always been understood to authorize the use of force for the related dual purposes of helping to establish a stable, democratic Iraq and of responding, including through the use of force, to terrorist threats emanating from Iraq.” (William S. Castle, Remarks, New York City Bar Association, 12/11/2017)

WHITE HOUSE NOTICE TO CONGRESS: “At the President’s direction, United States Armed Forces conducted an air strike in Iraq on January 2, 2020, killing Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The President directed this action in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East region…. Article II of the United States Constitution empowers the President, as Commander in Chief, to direct the use of military force to protect the Nation from attack or threat of imminent attack and to protect important national interests. Article II thus authorized the President to use force against forces of Iran, a state responsible for conducting and directing attacks against United States forces in the region. In addition, under the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (2002 AUMF) ‘the President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to … defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.’ Although the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime was the initial focus of the statute, the United States has long relied upon the 2002 AUMF to authorize the use of force for the purpose of establishing a stable, democratic Iraq and addressing terrorist threats emanating from Iraq.” (“Notice on the Legal and Policy Frameworks guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” The White House, 2/14/2020)

  • “Such uses of force need not address threats from the Iraqi Government apparatus only, but may address threats to the United States posed by militia, terrorist groups, or other armed groups in Iraq. The airstrike against Soleimani in Iraq is consistent with this longstanding interpretation of the President’s authority under Article II and the 2002 AUMF. Iran’s past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran’s Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq, and the air strike was intended to protect United States personnel and deter future Iranian attack plans against United States forces and interests in Iraq and threats emanating from Iraq.” (“Notice on the Legal and Policy Frameworks guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” The White House, 2/14/2020)


Frustratingly, The Biden Administration Is Pulling Punches In Responding To These Iranian Attacks

“A few days after an American civilian contractor in Iraq died in a rocket attack by Iran-backed militias in December 2019, President Donald J. Trump retaliated by ordering a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. After a U.S. civilian contractor was killed and six other Americans were injured on Thursday in northeast Syria by a drone that U.S. officials said was of ‘Iranian origin,’ President Biden’s response has so far been more restrained. Two U.S. F-15 E fighter jets retaliated on Thursday by launching airstrikes against militant sites linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. That prompted Iran-backed militias to launch a volley of rocket and drone attacks on Friday that injured another American. U.S. warplanes were poised to conduct a second round of reprisal strikes late Friday, but the White House held off, a senior U.S. official said…. On Monday … Biden administration officials said the military stood ready to respond to any new threats to U.S. personnel. But they also seemed eager to move on [and] avoid escalating the back-and-forth strikes …” (“Biden Officials Hold Off on More Airstrikes in Syria, for Now,” The New York Times, 3/27/2023)

  • [S]ome military analysts and former Defense Department officials said on Monday that the administration’s retaliatory strikes would not deter Iran or its proxies and that the White House needed to ramp up the reprisals. ‘The current policy of ‘proportional response’ has not ended these unprovoked attacks,’ said Michael P. Mulroy, a former top Middle East policy official at the Pentagon. ‘If you’re going to strike, strike hard.’ That is what Mr. Trump did on Jan. 3, 2020, when he authorized the attack on the Iranian commander. Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport in Baghdad.” (“Biden Officials Hold Off on More Airstrikes in Syria, for Now,” The New York Times, 3/27/2023)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR), Senate Armed Services Committee Member: “How many attacks has Iran or its proxies launched against American positions in Iran and Syria since Joe Biden took office?”
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD AUSTIN: “It’s been 83 attacks, I think, in the last several years.”
SEN. COTTON: “That’s a lot of attacks over 2 years. How many times have we retaliated against Iran or its proxies?”
SEC. AUSTIN: “We’ve launched 4 major strikes, Senator….”

SEN. COTTON: “And after we retaliated, Iran attacked us again, injuring another American, didn’t it?”
SEC. AUSTIN: “They did.”
SEN. COTTON: “And have we retaliated for that attack on Friday?”
SEC. AUSTIN: “We have not yet, Senator.”
SEN. COTTON: “So what kind of signal do we think this sends to Iran when they can attack us 83 times since Joe Biden has become president and we only respond 4?” (U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 3/28/2023)


And Biden Officials Are Failing To Adequately Notify Congress About These Attacks, Even As The Senate Is Considering Legislation On That Very Issue

LEADER McCONNELL: “It appears the Administration kept Senators in the dark about last Thursday’s attack until Senators had finished voting on amendments to the AUMF repeal. That included Senator Rubio’s amendment that would have conditioned the AUMF repeal on a proven reduction in Iran’s backing of terrorism.” (Sen. McConnell, Press Release, 3/28/2023)

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member: “Mr. Secretary, you’ve got a pretty big congressional relations office in your shop, do you not?”
SEC. AUSTIN: “I do.”
SEN. WICKER: “Do you agree that it should have occurred to someone in that office to inform senators who were debating about Iran last Thursday about what had occurred with regard to attacks in Syria?”
SEC. AUSTIN: “Senator, I think you know that we take the War Powers Act very very seriously. And after every operation we’re required to brief Congress…. In this case, we had an attack and we launched an attack on the adversaries in the same time period—same short period of time. So, because of that compressed time, we did both notifications at the same time. We should have notified you earlier, and we will endeavor to do so …”

SEN. WICKER: “And so after the attack occurred, it did not dawn on anybody in congressional affairs to notify Members who were debating this very issue on the Senate floor? I think that is correct.”
SEC. AUSTIN: “Senator, our goal is to make sure that we keep you informed and we will do everything in our power to make sure that we improve our performance.” (U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 3/28/2023)



Related Issues: Iraq, America's Military, National Security, ISIL, Iran, Syria, Al Qaeda, War on Terror