Text of Syria Resolution Could Authorize Attack on Iran and Lebanon
September 2, 2013
The White House & Alex Kane / Monsoweiss
Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor who resigned from the Bush administration over its executive overreach, has warned that the text of President Barack Obama's resolution authorizing the use of military force on Syria is so broad that it could justify attacks on Iran and Lebanon.
Text of Draft Legislation Submitted by Obama to Congress
(August 31, 2013) -- Here is the text of draft legislation delivered by President Barack Obama on Saturday to the speaker of the House and president of the Senate regarding authorization for the use of the US armed forces in connection with the conflict in Syria.
Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;
Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;
Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world's population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;
Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;
Whereas, the objective of the United States' use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and
Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.
AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
(a) Authorization. -- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to --
(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. --
(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. -- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) Applicability of other requirements. --
Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
Former Bush Official:
Syria Resolution Could Authorize Attack on Iran and Lebanon
Alex Kane / Monsoweiss
(September 1, 2013) -- A former legal official from the Bush administration has warned that the text of President Barack Obama's resolution authorizing the use of military force on Syria is so broad that it could justify attacks on Iran and Lebanon. Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor who resigned from the Bush administration over its executive overreach, wrote today in Lawfare that "the proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad" and that it "does not contain specific limits on targets."
After Obama's Rose Garden speech yesterday, he sent Congress the text of his proposed resolution on striking Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. While Congress could modify the resolution, as it stands it's a document authorizing the use of force on a broad array of targets and could justify deeper US military involvement in the Middle East. Here's more of Goldsmith's analysis:
(1) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to take sides in the Syrian Civil War, or to attack Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, or to remove Assad from power?
Yes, as long as the President determines that any of these entities has a (mere) connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and that the use of force against one of them would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the US or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. It is very easy to imagine the President making such determinations with regard to Assad or one or more of the rebel groups.
(2) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to use force against Iran or Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon?
Again, yes, as long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the US or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. Again, very easy to imagine.
It brings to mind the AUMF passed in the aftermath of September 11. While that resolution directly concerned Al Qaeda and the Taliban, it was later broadened to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- even on targets that were clearly not part of Al Qaeda.
The Obama administration has made its case for a strike on Syria by emphasizing that it would be a limited attack. "This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope," the president said yesterday.
But the consequences of a strike on Syria are unpredictable, as the International Crisis Group said today in a statement cautioning against the use of military force and pressing for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. Any US military action on Syria increases the chance for a regional escalation of the conflict.
While escalation is not guaranteed -- the macho statements from Iran are likely bluster -- injecting more firepower into a brutal civil war could easily spiral out of control. If Obama gets his Syria resolution passed, he will have the political backing to embroil America in another Middle Eastern war if the Syria conflagration spreads as a result of a US strike.
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