House approves measure to restrain Trump’s actions on Iran

President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 13 January 2020

House approves measure to restrain Trump’s actions on Iran

WASHINGTON: Reigniting a debate over who has the power to declare war, the Democratic-controlled House on Thursday approved a resolution asserting that President Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran.
The war powers resolution is not binding on the president and would not require his signature. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nonetheless insisted it “has real teeth” because “it is a statement of the Congress of the United States.”
The measure will “protect American lives and values” by limiting Trump’s military actions, Pelosi said. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence.”
The House passed the measure, 224-194, with just three Republicans voting in support. Eight Democrats opposed the measure.
A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, faces an uphill fight in the GOP-run Senate. Kaine’s efforts received a boost Thursday as Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an ex-Marine, said he might support the war powers measure. Two other Republican senators said Wednesday they would back Kaine’s plan.
“We are members of a separate and distinct branch of government. It is our duty not to take anyone’s word for things as we are dealing with matters of life and death,” Young said, adding that he wished Trump administration officials had provided more intelligence information during a briefing Wednesday on a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.
Pelosi, in announcing the House vote, called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani “provocative and disproportionate.”
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalize, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced the Democratic measure as little more than “a press release designed to attack President Trump,” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called it a ”meaningless vote” on a measure that will never be sent to the president or “limit his constitutional authority to defend the American people.”
The House vote came a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified.
Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Soleimani “was traveling the region making plans to bring an attack against American personnel and American forces.” He said it was not possible to share full details of the intelligence with lawmakers.
“When it comes to intelligence we have to protect sources and methods, there’s only certain amount we can share with every member of Congress,” Pence said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “But those of us who have seen all the evidence know that there was a compelling case of imminent threat against American personnel.”
Trump said Thursday that he “had calls from numerous senators and numerous congressmen and women saying it was the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.”
Referring to criticism by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Trump said: “They want information that honestly I think is very hard to get. ... It really had to do with sources and information that we had that really should remain at a very high level.”


Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
Updated 14 July 2020

Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

  • Row follows launch of two major military operations against PKK last month in northern Iraq

ISTANBUL: A map posted by the official Twitter account of the Turkish Presidency drew an angry reaction from Baghdad because it showed a divided Iraq.

The map, which was deleted after criticism, was intended to illustrate the locations of Turkish troops that have crossed the border and advanced up to 40 kilometers in 38 areas of Northern Iraq. However, it highlighted the northern part of the country in yellow and the rest in green. It also revealed that Turkish forces were deployed in the cities of Erbil, Soran, Duhok and Zakho.

“If you share such maps, you will then legitimize other official sources who share maps of a divided Turkey,” said Aytun Ciray, a Turkish opposition politician from the IYI Party, emphasizing the need for respecting neighboring Iraq’s territorial unity.

The row over the map follows the launch of two major operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in mid-June in northern Iraq, dubbed Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle, which were criticized by Iraqi authorities. A fifth Turkish soldier has been killed during the ground offensive, Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday night.

The PKK is listed as a terror group by Ankara, Brussels and Washington. The group allegedly uses about 81 locations in northern Iraq as bases from which to launch attacks in Turkey.

Baghdad considers the presence of Turkish troops a “blatant breach of the UN charter” and said it is concerned about the safety of “unarmed civilians” during Turkish operations. Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Al-Sahaf said on July 3 that the country might file an official complaint with the UN Security Council (UNSC) if Turkey does not halt its military activity in the north.

He added: “We reject any unilateral action that would harm our sovereignty. We started with a statement of condemnation and may resort to gathering support from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and could file a complaint to the UNSC.”

Ryan Bohl, a regional analyst with the Stratfor geopolitical consultancy, suggested that the release of the contentious map was an attempt by Ankara to signal to Iraq, as well as the PKK and the international community, that it intends to maintain its current level of operations for some time.

“That in and of itself is a strain with Baghdad, since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi can’t necessarily count on the operation winding down and going back to a status quo,” he said.

However, Bohl added that the withdrawal of the map shows that Ankara does not want to be viewed as a permanent occupying force by Iraq or its allies.

“(Turkey) wants northern Iraq to be seen as different than its spheres of influence in Syria, which are signaled to be much longer term,” he said. “So Ankara is trying to walk a fine line between showing that this operation will be more significant than previous ones against the PKK, but trying not to make it appear like it will be an occupying or permanent force in northern Iraq.”