The first week of 2020 began with a crisis: On January 2nd, President Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian military commander, Major General Qassem Suleimani. This act raised the spectre of another war in the Middle East. It also sparked important developments in congressional and grassroots efforts to convince decision-makers to de-escalate tensions with Iran and prevent another all-out war.
As PSR Executive Director Jeff Carter explained back in January, the assassination of Suleimani brought the world closer to nuclear conflict for two reasons:
“First, this escalation of hostilities could be interpreted as a declaration of war. War is full of uncertainty, and could draw in others besides the U.S. and Iran, including nuclear-armed countries such as Israel and Russia.”
“Second, in 2018, the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, an agreement that was working as planned to effectively and verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The assassination of Suleimani will likely bolster the arguments of those in Iran who advocate for Iran to work harder and faster to obtain them.”
PSR responded to that crisis by joining our allies in the streets, with PSR chapters joining anti-war demonstrations all over the country. On January 9, dozens of groups led by MoveOn, Win Without War, Indivisible, CODEPINK and other grassroots organizations held a No War With Iran Day of Action, with 377 events in towns and cities around the country. Throughout January, our chapters sent out action alerts, and PSR members sent over 1,000 messages to their Members of Congress in support of War Powers legislation, introduced by Senator Kaine and Representative Slotkin.
Congress got the message! Through our collective organizing, both chambers of Congress worked together to pass the War Powers legislation:
- On January 9, the House voted to require President Trump to seek congressional approval for further military action against Iran. The War Powers measure offered by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) was approved by an almost party-line vote of 224-194.
- On February 13, the Senate approved the bipartisan Kaine (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL), Lee (R-UT) and Paul (R-KY) War Powers measure, S.J.Res 68, a measure to limit the President’s actions against Iran. The vote was 55-45, with eight Republican Senators voting aye: Lamar Alexander (TN), Todd Young (IN), Mike Lee (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), Rand Paul (KY), Bill Cassidy (LA) and Jerry Moran (KS)
- On March 11, the House joined the Senate in approving the Kaine (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL), Lee (R-UT) and Paul (R-KY) war powers measure, S.J.Res 68, a bill adopted in the Senate to limit the President’s actions against Iran. The House vote was 227-186.
At the same time, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) both secured bipartisan victories in the house on their proposed amendments, which aimed to reduce the chances that the US engage in a war with Iran:
- On January 30, an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to repeal the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which has been used by administrations of both parties to cover combat in many places, was approved 236-166.
- A second measure offered the same day by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) to prohibit U.S. military action against Iran without prior congressional approval was adopted 228-175