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Can He do that?

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning. It is a Threat.” President Trump, Twitter

“The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.” Voltaire

“Assassination has never changed the history of the world.” Benjamin Disraeli

Last night, a stunning development unfolded in the Middle East and Persian Gulf saga. Under the direct order of the United States President, Donald Trump the United States conducted a military mission leading to the death of the powerful leader of Iran’s security forces, General Qasem Soleimani, and several other high deputies of various Iraqi and Iranian military units.

These actions have the very likely potential of leading to an escalation of tensions between the United States, its allies and the Iranian government and its surrogates. Trust me when I say, we have not seen the end of this.

There are many places where you can go to read about the actual occurrence, so I will not re-hash that in this article. But what I want to write about today is two things: (1) On what legal basis can an American President assassinate a high official of another country, especially on foreign soil? (2) What will the possible consequences be of these actions?

Legal Authority- 

Executive Order 12,333, Section 2.11 prohibits assassination. This does not have the force of law but is merely a presidential pronouncement that can be repealed, modified, or suspended at any time by the president himself. This Executive Order is generally held up as the document preventing the US from committing assassinations around the world. Almost every president since President Reagan has suspended this Executive Order to carry out ordered killings of individuals whom the President considers an enemy of the United States. The President likely suspended this order last night.

So under what authority did he order the killing of General Soleimani? Most likely, it was under the same power that President Bush and President Obama ordered the killings of government officials during their presidency. They used the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was approved by Congress shortly after 9/11. 

The AUMF is a short document citing why Congress is passing it and then spells out its purview and limits.” The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

It will be in these words that the Trump administration will find its legal harbor. I say that because there will be many who will accuse the president of not having the authority to conduct such a mission. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they want to add this act to their long litany of charges for President Trump’s impeachment.

The bottom line is: The President did have the authority to conduct such an operation. With that, the bottom line is the reality that there will be consequences. I will deal with that in an article tomorrow.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2001/09/what-war-powers-does-the-president-have.html

https://theweek.com/articles/854927/presidential-war-powers

https://fas.org/irp/crs/RS21037.pdf

https://www.csis.org/analysis/fact-sheet-executive-order-12333-0

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