- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A group of 62 predominantly left-leaning organizations sent an open letter to Capitol Hill Tuesday calling on lawmakers to push through legislation that would block President Trump from authorizing military action against Iran without explicit new approval from Congress.

The letter, circulated by the National Iranian American Council, a nonprofit that advocates for diplomacy with Tehran and supported the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, claims the Trump administration seeks to “provoke” a military clash.

“Spurred on by National Security Advisor John Bolton, [the administration] has moved the U.S. into a war posture,” the letter said. “Over the last few weeks, Bolton pushed through unprecedented sanctions and escalated the war of words intended to provoke retaliation from the Iranians.”

“We write to request that Congress take urgent action to halt a march to war with Iran,” it said, adding that “Congress cannot be complicit as the playbook for the 2003 invasion of Iraq is repeated before our eyes.”

Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact further constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an unauthorized war,” it said, calling on lawmakers to push through the “Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act.”

The bill, currently in committee, was introduced last month by Sens. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican; Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat; and Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

While there was no immediate reaction on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the letter comes days after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the administration for failing to share information about the currently rising tensions with Iran.

The criticism came after the State Department announced the withdrawal last week of all non-essential U.S. personnel from the Iraq, where Iran-backed militias are active. Before announcing the withdrawal, administration officials had cited non-specific intelligence that attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq may be imminent.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called the withdrawal of non-essential personnel “a serious move.”

“I would urge the State Department and the [Pentagon] to come down here and explain to us what’s going on,” he told reporters last week.

Despite such frustration, it remains to be seen whether the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act has widespread support, particularly among Republicans, who have generally supported the administrations increased pressure on Tehran since President Trump pulled out of the Obama-era nuclear deal last year.

Mr. Trump appeared eager to tamp down the current escalation with Iran last week when he said he seeks direct talks with Iran’s leaders. However, the president shifted his tone over the weekend, after a rocket — reportedly fired from an area where Tehran-backed militias are active — landed less than a mile from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Never threaten the United States again!”

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) cited several prominent progressive organization on the list of 62 entities supporting the letter to lawmakers Tuesday, including the Center for American Progress, the Ploughshares Fund and J Street.

A NIAC press release quoted J Street head of government affairs Dylan Williams as saying: “If the Trump administration were to launch a war of choice against Iran it would have devastating consequences for the United States, Israel and the entire region.”

Congress must fulfill its constitutional responsibility by making absolutely clear that the president is not authorized to trigger a new conflagration in the Middle East,” Mr. Williams said.

The effort to promote the bill comes as other organizations seek to draw attention to different bipartisan legislation condemning meddlesome activities by Iran, which has long been listed by the State Department as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an international group that advocates for the overthrow of Iran’s government, circulated a memo Tuesday pointing to the recent introduction of House Resolution 374, condemning Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.

Soona Samsami, the NCRI’s U.S. Representative, said in a statement that the resolution “shows large bipartisan support for Iranian people’s aspirations for democracy and their legitimate right to establish freedom in Iran.”

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