Doubts From Both Parties on Trump’s Authority to Attack Iran

Critics wonder what legal basis, if any, would be offered

There is no Congressional war authorization for attacking Iran. That’s a point that lawmakers in both parties have been eager to make in recent days, as talk of an Iran War grows. Making that clear has led to some interesting exchanges with the administration.

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee was pushing hard for Brian Hook to admit that Iran was nothing to do with 9/11, and that therefore the 9/11 war authorization doesn’t cover them.

Hook initially resisted this, claiming he’s not a “scholar,” but finally conceded Iran didn’t do 9/11. This was likely a tough point for him, because Mike Pompeo has tried to link Iran, implausibly, to al-Qaeda, and many see this as a cynical attempt to manufacture a war authorization where none exists.

Hook insisted ultimately that whatever Trump did, it would be completely legal, which is likely less an assurance of a plan to seek proper authorization than a continuation of administration arguments that the president can do as he wishes.

US involvement in other plainly unauthorized wars suggests this remains a concern, and that whether Congress signs off or not, a war cannot be precluded.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.