US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told lawmakers Wednesday that any military conflict with Iran would be a “defensive move” on Washington’s side.
“We’re not seeking military action,” Hook told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subpanel, according to Politico. “There is no talk of offensive action. It’s a defensive move.”
He added that if it comes to direct military confrontation with Iran, the administration “will do everything that we are required to do with respect to congressional war powers, and we will comply with the law.”
The lawmakers pressed the representative over suspicions that Trump might circumventing Congress and use the AUMF legislation to go to war with Iran.
Under US law, the president must notify Congress within 48 hours before invading other country, and troops can only remain for 60 days without Congressional approval, after which the president has 30 days to withdraw all forces.
However, the AUMF authorizes the president to freely begin military operations against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as any body found guilty of preparing the 9/11 attacks. Linking Tehran to Al-Qaeda could be used to authorize a military action without congressional approval, according to beltway pundits.
Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that there is “no doubt” that Tehran is connected in some way to Al-Qaeda.
“There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda. Period. Full stop,” he said before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to al Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda. They have permitted al-Qaeda to transit their country.”
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, Hook did not rule out the possibility of military intervention, but provided no definitive answer, according to Politico. Hook answered “no” when asked whether Tehran was one of the entities responsible for the 9/11.
Hook did assert, however, that the Trump administration believes that Tehran is behind the recent attacks on oil tankers Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
“Those who have seen the intelligence all come away without any question [that] Iran is behind these attacks,” Hook said.
According to the Special Representative, intelligence claims that an undisclosed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official confirmed that it had “completed two actions.” Hook did not offer proof that the “two actions” refer to the tanker attacks, the Reuters report noted.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration unilaterally abandoned the 2015 Joint Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty, reimposed sanctions lifted during the Obama administration and refused to extend waivers on Iranian oil exports. Washington has gradually increased its military presence in the region, sending troops, armored vehicles, bombers and an aircraft carrier strike group.
Tehran denies its involvement in the tanker attacks and pledges its allegiance to the JCPOA, stressing that is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated in a speech this week that the Islamic republic will not wage a war against any nation. However, IRGC commander-in-chief Hossein Salami warned that Iran has cruise missiles capable of hitting aircraft carriers with “great precision.”