Iranian Attack Kills Americans
If a global pandemic and economic crisis weren't enough excitement . . . .
Iran has once again attacked American troops in Iraq, setting the stage for a dramatic escalation in the conflict:
Jack Detsch for al-Monitor (“Multiple US troops dead in Iraq after rocket strike“):
Two Americans and one British servicemember were killed in a rocket attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji base, just north of Baghdad, a security source confirmed to Al-Monitor. One American contractor was among the dead in the attack that took place at around 8 p.m. local time March 11, the source said.
US forces in Iraq quickly located a truck that had the capability to fire 36 Katyushas near the base. Pictures of vehicles carrying the Soviet-era rocket artillery system surfaced on Twitter in the hours after the attack.
Camp Taji was not targeted during the Jan. 8 Iranian ballistic missile attack that left more than 100 US service members with mild traumatic brain injuries. The news came amid reports of several strikes against Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps units along Iraq’s border with Syria.
Wednesday’s attack could spark a response from the Donald Trump administration, as the commander in chief has previously pledged that the death of American servicemembers or personnel could trigger a US military reaction.
President Trump, flanked by top military officials, insisted in a White House speech in January after the ballistic missile attacks that Iran appeared “to be standing down” after a 12-day spell that saw an American contractor killed and US retaliation that began with strikes on military caches of Iran-backed groups.
But experts insist that Iran was never likely to stand down for long after a Pentagon drone strike took out Iranian Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, whom US officials credited with extending Iran’s paramilitary reach into Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Soleimani would have turned 63 today.
“Iran was never going to sit back after the Soleimani episode, and folks who said it was over were jumping the gun,” said Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “So, if this is them, then it was to be expected.”
The scope and lethality of Wednesday’s attacks could indicate that Iran has further extended its willingness to escalate the ongoing tit-for-tat with the United States. “Seems in line with their modus operandi, but they appear more willing to inflict casualties, which was seen as a red line for a while,” Tabatabai added.
Congress has passed a resolution limiting Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran.
It will now be sent to the White House, where Trump is expected to veto it. Congress is not expected to have enough votes to override a presidential veto. Although it is unlikely to become law, passage of the resolution by both chambers represents a significant rebuke to the President and highlights congressional support for efforts to check the executive branch’s war-making powers.
The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure last month ahead of its passage, tweeting, “It is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”
The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”
It includes a provision ensuring the President would still be able to defend the United States from “imminent attack” absent congressional approval.
That a Republican-majority Senate passed this—and some Republican Representatives voted for it—is remarkable given the times. But, as noted, there aren’t enough votes to override a Trump veto. And, frankly, even if there were, there’s no reason to think the President would feel constrained by mere law. What are they going to do, impeach him again?