Targeted killing of Iranian general threatens to seize American political debate

The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani by the U.S. is likely to dominate the political debate Friday on Capitol Hill and elsewhere over whether the action amounted to an act of war and if President Trump had the authority to undertake it without congressional approval.

Those questions will play out over the coming weeks, just as Democrats are discussing when to forward articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate amid a standoff over how a trial will be conducted.

It is unclear whether the administration notified any congressional leaders ahead of the strike. Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate minority leader, did not receive advance notice, according to an aide.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) warned that the “reckless escalation of hostilities is likely a violation of Congress’ war-making authority – as well as our basing agreement with Iraq – putting U.S. forces and citizens in danger and very possibly sinking us into another disastrous war in the Middle East that the American people are not asking for and do not support.”

In a security alert Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad urged all Americans to “depart Iraq immediately.”

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the killing could turn Suleimani into a “martyr” and puts the U.S. “on the brink of direct confrontation in the Middle East. [Thursday night’s] action represents a massive escalation in our conflict with Iran with unpredictable consequences.”

Republicans, however, praised Trump for killing Suleimani, who, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), had “American blood on his hands.”

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

At least one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, praised the elimination of Suleimani but warned that the Trump administration needs to have a comprehensive plan for dealing with the fallout in an unpredictable region of the world.

“I will be pressing the administration for additional details in the days ahead,” he said.

Trump’s possible Democratic rivals in the 2020 presidential race also lambasted the attack.

“When I voted against the war in Iraq in 2002, I feared it would lead to greater destabilization of the country and the region. Today, 17 years later, that fear has unfortunately turned out to be true,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Trump’s “reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

By Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times

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