State Dept: US Unlikely to Use 2001 War Authorization for Attacking Iran

Administration does not interpret AUMF as authorizing Iran attack

According to a new letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee from Assistant Secretary of State Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the Trump Administration is unlikely, in the event that they attack Iran, to use the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) as the legal justification.

The 2001 AUMF, passed after 9/11, is extremely broad, and has been used for myriad US wars. At the same time, it was plainly al-Qaeda related, which has led many lawmakers to warn it shouldn’t be seen as covering an attack on Iran.

Speculation about this has even led the House to put language ending the AUMF into their most recent military spending bill, though it is widely expected this will be taken out to reconcile it with the Senate version.

President Trump has suggested that no authorization is necessary, and indeed, that he wouldn’t even have to inform Congress if he was going to attack Iran. The expectation from the White House seems to be that no legal justification at all would be offered.

That’s clearly problematic, legally, but the ongoing Yemen War, in which the US is participating, was never authorized in any way either, and Trump has simply vetoed attempts by Congress to force him to end the plainly illegal conflict.

Taken as the de facto standard, this means that a president can effectively launch any illegal war he wants, and so long as both houses of Congress cannot muster a veto-proof majority, there is really no way of stopping him.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of