Congressional Hearings on Iran Lethal Support Claims?

Jim Henley argues Congress should investigate executive claims that Iran is providing advanced weaponry to our enemies in Iraq and, if true, go to the UN and demand action.

I would point out that we’ve had more luck in recent years getting France to take decisive action. The UN is useful for a lot of things but collective security has never been one of them.

Leaving that aside, though, I’m generally on board with this thesis:

[A] unilateral executive decision to attack Iran on the basis of unaudited claims merits nothing but opposition. So does a Congressional decision to shirk its responsibilities under the constitution by taking the word of another branch of government, especially in light of the sad history of the last five years.

I would demur slightly and change “nothing but opposition” to “scrutiny.” The Constitution has set forth an “invitation to struggle” in matters of foreign affairs and, absent a true emergency, Congress should certainly be jealous of its powers and wary of the executive. Jim titles his post “Don’t Trust – Verify.” I would note that Ronald Reagan gave the Evil Empire “Trust But Verify” treatment.

The War Powers Act acknowledges that the president has the Constitutional authority to use military force, absent Congressional authorization, in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces [emphasis mine].” It’s within President Bush’s power, then, to order a proportionate response to this direct threat.

I would agree, however, that an invasion of Iran, absent larger provocation, should come with Congressional approval. Further, as I’ve written many times, I think war with Iran would almost certainly cause more harm than good to our national interests.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Intelligence, Iraq War, United Nations, US Constitution, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. M1EK says:

    “I would demur slightly and change “nothing but opposition” to “scrutiny.””

    Uh, no. The Congress should impeach the President if he tries to go to war on false evidence again. Period.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I think Henley’s proposal is extremely solid and, consequently, I don’t think there’s any chance that the Congress will do it. It’s more fun making hay at the expense of your political opponents than proving something that alienates your base.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    BTW, M1EK, the investigation would cut both ways. If the Congress were to find incontestable evidence that Iran is, in fact, waging war against us in Iraq, it would make a very strong case for armed intervention (something I’ve opposed) to stop it, especially if the UNSC either fails to act or acts ineffectively.,

  4. ken says:

    The US military must get out of Iraq. That has already been decided by the American people. We will not support a war based upon lies.

    That said it makes no sense to attack another country just for attacking our soldiers where they do not belong. The solution is to do the right thing and leave ASAP.

    The consequences of doing the right thing, and withdrawing, are far easier to deal with than are the consequences of starting another illegal, immoral and unjust war, this time on Iran.

  5. Cernig says:

    Hi James,

    Imagine how pleased I was when Jim linked to my recent imaginings of what Bush would say if he cared what Occam’s Razor was.

    Regards, C

  6. anjin-san says:

    >I would point out that we’ve had more luck in recent years getting France to take decisive action.

    If you are refering to France’s refusal to participate in Bushs’ splended little war in Iraq, I would argue that they did take decisive action. They refused to follow Bush off the cliff, and in the process saved their country from unnecessary loss of life and national treasure.

  7. Barry says:

    The way I see it, France did *us* a favor. ‘Us’ being, of course, the American people. They don’t owe the Bush administration, or its liars, jack. Those who feel that France let them down are really confessing that they themselves are traitors to the American people.

  8. Michael says:

    Ok, since when did we start to consider giving weapons and logistical support to one side of a conflict an action that would warrant, let alone demand, an immediate military response by the other side?

    How many times in the past, and even currently, has the US provided one side of a conflict with arms and logistics? Should we then be considered a direct participant in these conflicts, and should our interests be a fair target to the other party?

    This is what major powers do, they have other people fight their wars for them. The problem isn’t that Iran is funding and arming Iraqis to fight us, the problem is that Iran is now a major power in the middle east and beyond. If our foreign policy does not recognize that they are no longer an isolated third world country, we’ll suffer in more than just Iraq.

  9. JT says:

    It’s also a question of what merits a “national emergency.” As difficult as 9/11 was for many Americans to deal with, it was in no way a “national” emergency and yet here we are 6 years and a war later.

  10. Beldar says:

    You’re assuming the War Powers Act is constitutional, i.e., that it effectively and constitutionally circumscribes the President’s power as commander in chief. That’s fine for purposes of discussion. It’s not necessarily the case, and emphatically has not been judicially held to be the case, as a matter of constitutional law.

  11. James Joyner says:


    True enough, although that’s simply because it hasn’t been adjudicated. I think almost everyone agrees that there’s an unconstitutional legislative veto provision but it’s explicitly severable. You think the act as a whole is unconstitutional?

  12. LJD says:

    I never thought I’d see the day when Americans knowingly and willingly run away from a grave threat to our national security. We are all screwed.