Two top Senate Democrats called on U.S. President Donald Trump Monday to immediately declassify the administration's reasoning for the strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps general Qassem Soleimani on Friday, saying there is "no legitimate justification" for keeping the information from the public.
In a letter to Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate Foreign Relation Committee's Sen. Robert Menendez said the White House's classified notification sent to Congress late Saturday under the War Powers Act was insufficient and inappropriate.
"It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner," the letter read. "An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society."
Trump did meet the 48-hour deadline required by the War Powers Act to notify Congress after the deadly drone strike, though the document was classified and no public version was released.
Both senators asked that the notification be declassified "in full."
The administration is expected to brief lawmakers on its actions this week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Sunday the House would introduce and vote this week on a war powers resolution to limit the president's military actions regarding Iran.
In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi called the airstrike "provocative and disproportionate" and said it had "endangered our service members, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran."
Pelosi also said the notification "raises more questions than it answers. This document prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran."
Iran has vowed to retaliate Trump's targeted killing of Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds force.
It has sparked outrage in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where more than 5,000 American troops are still on the ground 17 years after the U.S. invasion.
Trump raised the prospect of targeting Iranian cultural sites Saturday in a tweet, dismissing concerns within his own administration that doing so could constitute a war crime under international law.
Speaking with reporters Sunday as he flew back to Washington from his holiday in Florida, he refused to back down, despite international prohibitions.
"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump said.
The administration has scrambled to contend with the backlash to the killing of Soleimani, which marked a stark escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. military may well strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates.
Pompeo tip-toed around questions about Trump's threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, a military action that likely would be illegal under the laws of armed conflict and the U.N. charter.
Pompeo defended the targeted killing of Soleimani, saying the administration would have been "culpably negligent" in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed him.
The secretary of state did not provide evidence for his previous claims that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans. Instead of arguing that an attack had been imminent, Pompeo said it was inevitable.
Trump also warned Iraq that he would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for the airstrike in Baghdad that killed Soleimani and the U.S. wouldn't leave Iraq without being paid for its military investments in the western Asian country over the years.
"We will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame," he said. "If there's any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq. We're not leaving until they pay us back for it."
The threat was issued after Iraq's parliament voted Sunday in favor of a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of American forces from Iraqi soil.
First published: 20:37 , 01.06.20