Democrats call US killing of Soleimani ‘reckless,’ say Congress wasn’t notified

Biden slams Trump, saying strike on top Iranian general could cause ‘major conflict across the Middle East’; Sanders, Warren, others join criticism

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden addresses a gathering during a campaign stop in Exeter, New Hampshire, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden addresses a gathering during a campaign stop in Exeter, New Hampshire, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Leading US Democratic presidential hopefuls criticized US President Donald Trump on Thursday night and Friday over the targeted killing of Iran’s top general in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport, saying it could leave the US “on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”

The Pentagon said the US military killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Baghdad Friday at the direction of Trump. The attack is expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation, potentially against both American and Israeli interests. The Defense Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

White House candidate Joe Biden said Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” with his order.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders released a statement saying, “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC Quds Force, attends an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Democrats acknowledged the threat posed by Soleimani, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling him “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.”

However, she added, Trump’s “reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang tweeted: “War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”

The attack also drew criticism from Democrats who aren’t running for president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the administration conducted the airstrike without consultation of Congress or an authorization for use of military force against Iran. She said it “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.”

The strike conducted in Baghdad against Soleimani “went forward with no notification or consultation with Congress,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel similarly said in a statement.

Democratic US presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate December 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP/Chris Carlson)

Soleimani was “the mastermind of immense violence” who has “the blood of Americans on his hands,” the Democratic lawmaker acknowledged. But “to push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress’s powers as a coequal branch of government.”

The White House traditionally notifies senior members of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives ahead of major military action.

In this December 9, 2019, file photo, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer “was not given advanced notice” of the strike, a senior Democratic aide told AFP.

Republicans on Capitol Hill stood behind Trump, without stating publicly whether officials informed them ahead of the attack.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said: “I appreciate President Trump’s bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.”

And Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “America does not and should not seek war, but it will respond in kind to those who threaten our citizens, soldiers and friends — as the President has long promised. De-escalation is preferable and possible — but only if our adversaries choose it.”

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media following a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, December 24, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The War Powers Resolution requires the US president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action.

But several Democrats have warned that Congress’s constitutional role in making decisions about war have been eroded in the first three years of the Trump administration.

“Even if this strike was in self-defense, no current congressional authorization covered it and the President needs to notify Congress within 48 hours pursuant to the War Powers Resolution,” Engel said.

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