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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Thursday to limit President Donald Trump's ability to wage war against Iran, rebuking him weeks after a strike against an Iranian military commander and Tehran's retaliation raised fears of broader regional conflict.
Eight of Trump's fellow Republicans joined Democrats to pass the war powers resolution by 55-45. The measure would require Trump to remove U.S. troops engaged in hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or passes a specific authorization for the use of military force.
Trump has promised a veto, and there is not expected to be enough support to muster the two-thirds Senate super majority to override. Fifty-three of the 100 senators are Republicans, who rarely break with the president.
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a pair of bills repealing the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force and preventing taxpayer funding from being used to take military action against Iran without congressional authorization.
The 2002 AUMF — which was first passed to approve the U.S. military's invasion of Iraq the following year and was used to justify the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January — has overstayed its welcome by allowing presidents to deploy troops around the world without congressional approval, argued Rep. Barbara Lee (D.Calif.), who first introduced the repeal measure.
The vote to repeal the 2002 AUMF serves as call to Congress to get back involved in the process of deciding whether or not the United States goes to war, Lee said, a process she thinks Congress has shirked for nearly 20 years.
"We cannot afford to leave outdated AUMFs on the books indefinitely," Lee said in a statement after the House approved the bill in a largely party line vote of 236 to 166. "It is past time for Congress to finally do our Constitutional duty and vote on matters of war and peace."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper struggled on Sunday to support President Donald Trump's claim that Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was planning to attack four U.S. embassies when he was killed.
Speaking on CBS News, Esper told "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan that the president did not cite a specific piece of evidence that indicated Soleimani was plotting to attack the four embassies that Trump mentioned.
"Are you saying there wasn't one?" Brennan asked.
"I didn't see one with regard to four embassies," Esper replied. "What I'm saying is I share the president's view that, probably, my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies."
While Iran and the United States remain one shot away from war, the fact that Iran's ballistic missiles did not inflict casualties on American, coalition, or Iraqi forces appears to have given both sides an out, at least for the moment.
But experts agree that Iran has not finished seeking revenge for the death of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by firing 16 short-range ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases that host U.S. troops. President Donald Trump has decided to impose further sanctions on Iran rather than responding militarily.
The immediate crisis may be over, but Iran is likely to "resume provocations" unless it gets some relief from the United States' maximum pressure campaign, said Michèle Flournoy, who served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday its military had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 aboard, saying air defenses were fired in error while on alert in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.
Foreign governments condemned the action, with Ukraine demanding compensation and a U.S. official called the downing reckless, although Britain said Tehran's admission was an important first step and urged a de-escalation in tensions.
Iran had denied for days after Wednesday's crash that it brought down the plane, although a top Revolutionary Guards commander said on Saturday that he had informed the authorities about the unintentional missile strike the same day it happened.
A Ukrainian aircraft which crashed earlier this week in Iran had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards and was shot down unintentionally due to human error, the Iranian military said in a statement read on state TV on Saturday.