WASHINGTON, DC – Today, despite the fact that he is a member of the minority party, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) presided over the Senate chamber as the U.S. Senate voted on an amendment to the national defense bill that would require President Trump come to Congress before engaging militarily with Iran, except in the case of self-defense.
Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, voted in favor of the measure to curb President Trump’s ability to enter into a war with Iran without congressional authorization. Reed stated:
“No President should take the American people into a war without a strategy and a clear-eyed assessment of the costs of military engagement. With respect to Iran, the dangers of miscalculation on both sides are acute at the moment.
“I believe that diplomatic efforts, in concert with our international partners, should be pursued immediately to avoid another unnecessary armed conflict in the Middle East.
“Let me be clear, Iran is a dangerous and destabilizing force in the region. It supports terrorist proxies and meddles in the internal affairs of other states.
“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s chosen course of action with respect to Iran has isolated the United States from the international community and made it more difficult to collectively address these issues. The Administration’s actions and rhetoric related to Iran have created a credibility deficit. This is a fast changing and dangerous situation, and it is clear that there is not a consensus within the international community with respect to Iran’s plans and intentions. Given these disconnects, it is imperative for the Administration to provide Congress with current, unvarnished intelligence so that we may reach substantiated conclusions.
“We must make it clear that any offensive military action against Iran be consistent with domestic and international law, including a specific authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) provided by Congress. Congress has a responsibility to demand, and if necessary challenge, the basis for unsupported assertions of Iranian aggression and provocation that could be used to take this country to war.
“The President and others in his Administration have consistently downplayed the potential costs of conflict with Iran. In fact, just this week, the President said that “if something should happen [with Iran], we're in a very strong position, it wouldn't last very long.” The President’s assessment is undercut by his own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and recently retired Commander of U.S. Central Command General Votel.
“The combination of Iran’s known conventional and asymmetric capabilities should dispel any notion that conflict with Iran would be quick or could be won only through the use of U.S. air power. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly said in a recent speech, “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe.” He continued, “[Iranian] capacity to wage a series of terror attacks across the Middle East aimed at us and our friends, and dramatically worsen the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and elsewhere is hard to overestimate.”
“All of the competent military analysts I have engaged with believe that we cannot conduct an effective land campaign in Iran and an extended air and sea campaign will undercut the priorities laid out in the National Defense Strategy, which focuses on Russia and China. Absent the full mobilization of our armed forces and those of our allies, ground operations in Iran are simply beyond our capacity. The last ground war involving Iran, the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, resulted in the death of nearly 1 million troops – the majority of whom were Iranians that died fighting a superior Iraqi military during a brutal and prolonged conflict. There is clearly no widespread U.S. or international support for another such military engagement in the Middle East.
“Considering the costs associated with ground operations, a more limited conflict involving a series of “tit-for-tat” actions is far more likely – with Iran utilizing its asymmetric advantages and proxies in response to U.S. precision and stand-off strikes. It is unlikely that U.S. deterrence could be quickly re-established under such a scenario and Iran may use the time to restart and advance its nuclear weapons efforts, thereby increasing its negotiating leverage and also making the situation much more volatile.
“War with Iran is not inevitable. To date, the Administration seems to have tried to use every instrument of national power to get Iran to change its behavior – except diplomacy and negotiations. The Administration’s ill-conceived approach has not worked and the time has come to try real and sustained diplomacy, rather than relying on coercion. I urge the President and those in the Administration to take this moment of high tension to engage with our allies and partners with the goal of seeking a diplomatic solution to the current situation.”
The amendment, which was offered by offered by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY), was backed by 50 U.S. Senators. But due to a unanimous consent agreement, the amendment needed 60 votes to be adopted. Ten U.S. Senators did not vote, but most of them opposed the amendment.
Click here to watch Senator Reed’s remarks.