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Back to the Brink of War Again?

President Trump and Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei. CreativeCommons, Shutterstock.

Last week, I said that there was still a danger that the U.S. or Israel might launch an attack on Iranian targets before the new administration takes over. Axios reports today that Israel is preparing for a possible U.S. attack on Iran:

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

This report comes just a few days after news that the president had recently asked for military options for just such an attack. Earlier this week, the administration announced that it was sending a number of B-52s to the region on short notice. Last week, there was also a statement from an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader that a U.S. attack could lead to “full-fledged war.” We have to assume that an attack is being seriously considered.

It should go without saying, but the U.S. has no justification for attacking Iran. If the U.S. did attack, it would be a flagrant breach of the U.N. Charter. If the president ordered such an attack without Congressional approval, it would be yet another attack on the Constitution and a violation of his oath of office. Congress has to state unequivocally that the president has no authority to order this attack. Americans need to speak out against a new unnecessary war now before the president has presented us with a fait accompli.

Decades of Congressional abdication of their role in matters of war have had a terrible distorting effect on our system. Presidents assume that they can initiate hostilities against anyone without any consequences because Congress refuses to hold any of them accountable when they trample on the Constitution. There is no accountability for previous illegal wars, and there seems to be no political or professional price paid for starting one. That always leaves open the possibility that a president might launch an attack as he is on his way out the door. That can’t be allowed to happen. Not only would an attack on Iran almost certainly trigger a larger conflict of unknown duration and cost, but it would give Iran every incentive to pursue nuclear weapons as a deterrent against further attacks.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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