Democrats slammed President Donald Trump for leaving them in the dark on the strike that took out Iranian general Qassem Soleimani — and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who oversaw secret impeachment hearings in the House last year, has a plan for controlling the consequences.
Schiff told the Washington Post that there should be public hearings on the strike, which Democrats say risked escalating tensions in the Middle East and starting a new war. The California Democrat also questioned the State Department’s justifications for the strike.
“The president has put us on a path where we may be at war with Iran. That requires the Congress to fully engage,” Schiff told the Washington Post.
Schiff calls for Iran strike hearings
The Trump administration says that Soleimani, the leader of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was behind the deaths of hundreds of American troops and was planning “imminent” attacks on Americans when he was killed. But Democrats and a few Republicans have responded to his death with alarm about a potential new Middle Eastern war.
Democrats, in particular, have complained that the strike was unauthorized and took them by surprise, a common refrain among Democrats who don’t like Trump’s unconventional, off-the-cuff approach to foreign policy. In a tweet this weekend, Trump said that his notifications to Congress would come from “Media Posts,” presumably meanings his tweets, as he doubled down on threats to blow up 52 Iranian “cultural sites,” a move that Democrats said would amount to war crimes.
“None of that could come out of the Pentagon. Absolutely no way,” Schiff said.
Democrats on the so-called Gang of Eight of top lawmakers privy to U.S. intelligence matters, which includes Schiff, received notification of the strike from Congress a day later. But Democrats complained that they did not receive advance notice and called on the Trump administration to “immediately” declassify the rationale for the attack.
Questions U.S. intelligence
Ironically, the Iran crisis has led Democrats to veer sharply from respecting the “intelligence community” as beyond reproach to instead mistrusting intelligence authorities, as liberals traditionally used to do. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to reveal some of the intelligence behind the assessment that Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat, saying it’s necessary to protect the sensitive information — but Schiff said that he has seen the information and that it’s flimsy.
“I’m certainly not satisfied that the intelligence supports the conclusion that the killing of Soleimani was going to either prevent attacks on the United States or reduce the risk to American lives,” Schiff told the Post. “I don’t think the intelligence was of the kind of character that would lead to a uniform recommendation that Soleimani should be killed,” Schiff added. “I think that was an impulsive judgment made by the president.”
The Schiff show
Democrats now plan to introduce a War Powers Act resolution this week seeking to limit Trump’s power to wage a potential war with Iran, The Hill reported. But don’t forget that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrats previously supported President Barack Obama’s unauthorized 2011 intervention in Libya, which led to the violent overthrow of Moammar Ghaddafi’s government, destabilizing the region and creating a refugee crisis.
Iran has yet to retaliate to Soleimani’s killing, but America and Iran have continued to trade threats and events are rapidly developing in the Middle East. The Iranian regime announced Sunday that it would drop its remaining commitments to limitations on uranium enrichment, essentially killing off what was left of the Obama-era Iran deal.
It’s perfectly legitimate to ask questions about the underlying intelligence behind the strike, but if the hearings play out anything like the impeachment proceedings in which Schiff had a leading role, they’re not likely to produce much information. Democrats may say they’re against starting a war, but if that’s true then they had best take the matter seriously.