“There’s an alarming lack of clarity here. There’s a lack of strategy and there’s a lack of consultation. The president ought to come up with a strategy and make it clear to Congress,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today, according to The Hill, regarding Trump’s escalation of tensions with Iran, about which Trump has not consulted Congress, much to Schumer’s dismay. Schumer’s comments come as reports have emerged that the Pentagon has developed a plan to deploy 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East if Iran takes aggressive steps toward the U.S. or resumes its nuclear program.
To be clear, this increase of tensions with Iran started as the result of President Trump’s actions, not Iran’s. Iran was, by all measures, in complete compliance with the multi-national Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement under which Iran received sanctions relief in exchange for agreeing to curtail its nuclear program and allow outside oversight to ensure that compliance. Then Trump unilaterally decided to leave the JCPOA and not only reimpose sanctions against Iran, but threaten other countries doing business with Iran, particularly buying its oil. Trump’s move was harshly criticized by most of the other countries remaining in the JCPOA with Iran (China, France, the European Union, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), which made every effort to keep the JCPOA in place with Iran. But the U.S. exit, and the progressively harsher and harsher sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration, have had a devastating effect on Iran’s economy, taking away much of the benefit Iran was to be receiving under the JCPOA, putting Iran in a position where it would threaten to begin partially not complying with its end of the agreement. And then the Trump administration has used that response, one that was almost certainly the inevitable conclusion of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and re-imposition of sanction, as a reason to justify further actions against Iran. According to The Hill:
Schumer added on Wednesday that troops would need to be approved by Congress. “Any potential increase in our military presence in the Middle East should require consultation with Congress and anything beyond that would require this body to act. President Trump, what is your strategy? Where are you headed? And why aren’t you talking to Congress about it?” Schumer asked. He added that “there needs to be open hearings and closed briefings with the committees of jurisdiction immediately.” …Schumer’s comments come after The New York Times reported earlier this week that the Pentagon has presented a plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces. Trump dismissed the report, but then added, “Would I do that? Absolutely.”
It is unclear, and certainly worrisome, where this escalation of tensions with Iran is headed. It is also concerning that Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has previously said he favored forcing a regime change in Iran. It is also worrisome, but at this point hardly surprising, that Trump, as Schumer alleges, has not been consulting Congress about the strategy on Iran. Increasingly, Trump appears to try to go around Congressional authority, from creating executive orders to try to get around legislative authority to defying congressional requests and subpoenas. How far would Trump go to keep power, to try to gain reelection? Would he start a war with the thought that a wartime president is more likely to get reelected?
UPDATE, 5/15/2019, 4PM CDT, Senator Schumer got specific this afternoon in requesting Congress be informed of the administration’s strategy on Iran, saying “I am calling on Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dunford to come testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in an open setting before the end of the week,” according to The Hill.