US Congress not told ahead of Soleimani killing: Top lawmaker

In a photo taken on Oct 1, 2019, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Lieutenant General and commander of the Quds Force Qasem Soleimani speaks during an interview in Teheran, Iran. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States lawmakers were not told in advance of the attack ordered by President Donald Trump that killed a top Iranian military commander, a senior House Democrat said late on Thursday (Jan 2).

The strike conducted in Baghdad on Friday, local time, against Iran's Qassem Soleimani "went forward with no notification or consultation with Congress", House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement.

General Soleimani was "the mastermind of immense violence" who has "the blood of Americans on his hands", the Democratic lawmaker said.

"(But) to push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress' powers as a co-equal branch of government," Mr Engel added.

The White House traditionally notifies senior members of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives ahead of major military action.

But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer "was not given advanced notice" of the strike, a senior Democratic aide told AFP.

Republican leaders have not stated publicly whether officials informed them ahead of the attack.

The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action.

But several Democrats have warned that Congress's constitutional role in making decisions about war have been eroded in the first three years of the Trump administration.

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"Even if this strike was in self-defence, no current congressional authorisation covered it and the President needs to notify Congress within 48 hours pursuant to the War Powers Resolution," Mr Engel said.

Gen Soleimani was commander of the Iranian Revolution Guards' elite Quds Force.

Several Democrats, including the party's 2020 presidential front runner Joe Biden, the former vice-president, have warned that the targeted killing could bring US forces dramatically closer towards an armed conflict with Iran.

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