White House

Democrats object to Trump’s threatening Iran over Saudi oil attack

U.S. is ‘locked and loaded’ if Tehran believed to be behind strikes, president warns

President Donald Trump leaves after chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting last September. He will be back there, along with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, next week. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images file photo)

The United States should not take orders about using military force against Iran even if Saudi Arabia’s government declares Tehran was behind an attack on its oil facilities, congressional Democrats are telling President Donald Trump.

Trump signaled on Sunday evening and again on Monday morning that he is standing by for Saudi officials to sort out just what happened and who launched what U.S. officials said appeared to be armed drone and cruise missile strikes on the Saudi facilities. The attacks are expected to pare Saudi production and drive up oil and gas prices — but Democrats are concerned the incident might compel Trump to launch retaliatory strikes on Iran, which they say would be contrary to American interests.

“We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!” Trump said, referring to the kingdom’s royal family.

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And that followed an even more hawkish tweet Sunday evening.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” Trump wrote. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Democratic lawmakers are objecting to the president’s implication that he is awaiting results of an ongoing Saudi investigation and might order U.S. military strikes on Iranian targets.

“If the President wants to use military force, he needs Congress — not the Saudi royal family — to authorize it,” Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline tweeted.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Foreign Relations Committee member who long has been a leading proponent of moving presidents away from using the post-9/11 authorization of the use of military force to justify various military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, also weighed in.

“The US should never go to war to protect Saudi oil,” Kaine tweeted.

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz warned the president in a tweet, “There is no imminent threat and the U.S. military is not authorized to retaliate on behalf of another country,” adding: “When you say ‘the Kingdom’ I assume you mean your intelligence agencies?”

Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut accused Trump of allowing the Saudi royal family to “call all our shots these days.”

“And frankly, no matter where this latest drone strike was launched from, there is no short or long term upside to the U.S. military getting more deeply involved in the growing regional contest between the Saudis and Iranians,” Murphy wrote in another tweet.

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In another, he said Trump’s tweet that he would not meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without pre-conditions ran contrary to what several of his own Cabinet members said as recently as last week.

But the critical reaction was not limited to Democrats.

“Under our Constitution, the power to commence war lies with Congress, not the president and certainly not Saudi Arabia,” tweeted Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who announced earlier this year he was leaving the Republican Party and considering a challenge to Trump as an independent. “We don’t take orders from foreign powers.”

The president could take questions from reporters twice on Monday, first when he meets with the crown prince of Dubai and then when he leaves the White House an hour later for a campaign rally in New Mexico. If the past is prologue, he is likely to sound a hawkish message toward Tehran.

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