September 11, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), one of Congress’ leading advocates for human rights, this week introduced new legislation in the House that would authorize the use of military action against international terrorism.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against International Terrorism Act would give the president authority to use all necessary and appropriate force against those countries, organizations, or persons associated with or supporting terrorist groups, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and any other emerging regional terrorist groups.
According to a statement issued by Congressman Wolf, the bill has been drafted in response to the growing threat of ISIS and to end the ambiguity of the president’s authority to use military force to deal with the current terrorist threat.
The legislation would act as a replacement for the authorization to use military force (AUMF) passed in 2001, which was used as the legal justification for the War on Terror following September 11th. Some members of Congress, including Congressman Wolf, believe that the 2001 AUMF has been stretched too thin over the past 13 years and a new strategy is needed to confront the threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Despite its intentions, some analysts have criticized the legislation as being too broad by not limiting the number of potential targets and leaving the authority to use force open-ended by not including a sunset provision.
PAAIA is similarly concerned that the broad language of the bill could have negative implications for the Iranian American community. Under the current language, the legislation would authorize the use of force against all countries on the State Department’s list of sponsors of terror, including Iran, Cuba, and Syria.
According to PAAIA’s National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans, two-thirds of Iranian Americans oppose U.S. military action in Iran, while only a small minority support it. Although more than two-thirds of those surveyed expressed that the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran are a top priority facing U.S.-Iran relations, Iranian Americans overwhelmingly would like to see a diplomatic resolution to U.S.-Iran disputes and would support efforts to enhance U.S. public diplomacy with Iran. Notably, more than half of Iranian Americans surveyed support President Obama’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program.
In light of these concerns, PAAIA has contacted Congressman Wolf’s office to express the views of the Iranian American community. His office explained that the intent of the legislation is to initiate a discussion and to show that the United States intends to work with its allies to confront and defeat the increasingly dangerous challenge posed by ISIS and other al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups that have proliferated in recent years, including al Shabaab, Boko Harem and Ansar al Shariah affiliates in Libya, for example. If the legislation is brought up for a vote, Congressman Wolf’s office indicated that he will consider feedback from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure to make any edits or changes to the bill. These changes could include a sunset provision or more detailed language regarding the focus of the threat.
In contrast, a more limited authorization bill was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) this week. The legislation would authorize airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but would not allow for ground troops and would sunset in three years.
President Obama revealed his strategy to confront ISIS in a presidential address last night. The president emphasized that he will not seek formal authorization from Congress for military action against ISIS but would welcome congressional support to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters.
While it is unlikely that Congress will take up any authorization measures at this stage, PAAIA will continue to follow up on this issue with Congressman Wolf and other members of Congress. We will provide any appropriate updates as they become available.
Click here to read Congressman Wolf’s bill.
Click here to read Senator Nelson’s bill.