Amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, pressed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on whether the administration's recent decision to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization was a way to justify possible future military action in Iran.
Citing a longstanding 2001 resolution enacted after the attacks on September 11th that allows the U.S. to strike its attackers, Pompeo testified on Capitol Hill that he'd "leave it to lawyers" to determine if that gave the U.S. carte blanche to attack the Iranian regime.
While Pompeo asserted that the resolution was "not part of the decision making process" in designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, Paul urged the secretary that it was "pretty important question if you think you have the power to go to war with Iran."
"Only Congress can declare war. You do not have our permission to go to war with Iran," Paul warned the secretary on Wednesday.
He added, "I can tell you, you have not been given power or authority by Congress to have war with Iran. So my hope is, I'm not arguing if IRGC is terrorists, my argument is you do not have permission Congress to go to war with iran. It's the way the constitution was written. You want it, you have to come to us."
In light of the resolution, Pompeo later testified that the connection between Iran and Al Qaeda was undeniable. "There is no question there is a connection between the Islamic republic of Iran and AL Qaeda. Full stop," said Pompeo, noting that the IRGC has "killed 600 Americans."
On Monday, the Trump administration accused the group, formed by an order of Ayatollah Khomeini as a branch of Iran's Armed Forces founded after the 1979 Iranian revolution, of not only facilitating, but perpetrating, terrorism. President Trump declared the designation an "unprecedented step" that "recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft."
The designation marks the first time that the U.S. has said a part of another government is a terrorist organization, according to the White House, and will expand the scope and scale of the administration's maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime. The White House emphasized the action "sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences."