Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) rebuked President Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress for pushing a proposal to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq at a time that U.S. troops in the region face threats from Iran and terrorist organizations.
“I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East. Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us. And when we deploy our servicemembers in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has previously signaled the bipartisan bill to repeal two AUMFs — one from the 1991 Gulf War and the other one authorizing the 2002 war in Iraq — has a good chance of getting a floor vote in the House, but McConnell’s forceful rejection of the measure is a troublesome sign for its prospects in the Republican-controlled lower chamber.
McConnell pointed to last week’s attack on U.S. military bases carried out by suspected Iranian drones, which killed a U.S. contractor and injured five service members, as the latest sign of growing Iranian aggression in the region.
He cited Iranian influence in Iraq as a reason to maintain legislative authority to deploy additional U.S. combat forces in Iraq.
“Iraq has come under extremely heavy influence and manipulation from Iran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has spent years standing up political parties, militias, and terrorist proxies in Iraq whose chief loyalty is to Tehran. Our enemies in Iran who have spent two decades targeting and killing Americans in the Middle East would be delighted to see America dial down our military presence, authorities, and activities in Iraq,” McConnell said.
“Tehran wants to push us out of Iraq and Syria. Why should Congress make that easier?”
About 2,500 U.S. troops are still deployed in Iraq.
McConnell ridiculed the Senate for engaging “in this abstract, theoretical debate about rolling back American power” while Iran is stepping up deadly attack against U.S. personnel.
“Some in America may think our war against terrorism is sunsetting, but clearly the terrorists do not agree,” he said.
The Kentucky senator faulted the administration for not having a more forceful response to the initial drone strike, which killed the contractor.
The U.S. Central Command responded to the first attack with what it described as “precision air strikes” against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
But that failed to deter three more attacks on U.S. bases Friday.
McConnell accused the Biden administration of downplaying the attacks Thursday while the Senate was considering amendments to the bill repealing authorization for the use of military force.
“It appears the Administration kept senators in the dark about last Thursday’s attack until senators had finished voting on amendments to the AUMF repeal. That included Senator [Marco] Rubio’s [R-Fla.] amendment that would have conditioned the AUMF repeal on a proven reduction in Iran’s backing of terrorism,” he said.
The Senate voted Monday to limit debate on the AUMF repeal bill, teeing up a final vote this week.