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Connecticut delegation has more questions than answers after attack

A day after receiving a briefing from top U.S. military and national security officials on the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, joined a majority of House Democrats in voting to curtail President Donald Trump's ability to launch further military action against Iran.

Just before the House voted on the war powers resolution Thursday, Courtney said by phone that it essentially restated the law that the president has the authority to react to an emergency situation where American troops or diplomatic personnel are at imminent risk but that the authority to declare war rests with Congress.

"What is concerning about this situation is not the death of someone who was obviously engaged in malign behavior across the region, but the cycle of escalation between the U.S. and Iran that risks sliding us into war without the President first consulting with the American people, or seeking lawful authorization from Congress pursuant to Article One of the Constitution," he said in a statement after the vote.

A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., faces an uphill fight in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Connecticut's Democratic senators emerged from the Senate's briefing Wednesday saying they received no evidence that there was an imminent threat, as the Trump administration has suggested, to warrant the strike without prior congressional approval.

"I did not receive any information in this briefing about a specific, imminent threat against U.S. forces in the region," Sen. Chris Murphy said during a live-streamed video Wednesday on Twitter following the briefing.

While it has generally been accepted that the president has the constitutional authority to carry out an attack to prevent an imminent threat, Murphy said, the burden is then on the administration to make clear what that threat was: "the specific nature of it and why the action they took was necessary in order to prevent it."

"We didn't get that information in this briefing today and that is either because they are choosing not to share that intelligence or it is because that intelligence doesn't exist," he said. "My fear is that it is because of the latter."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal wrote on Twitter that the briefing "was almost an insult to our intelligence. I left with more questions than answers."

"I'm deeply unsatisfied by the Admin's vague & unspecific replies to vital strategic decisions. Maybe most troubling is the apparent lack of a clear, coherent approach going forward," he said.

Eric Fleury, assistant professor of government and international relations at Connecticut College, said the current administration should more narrowly define the extent to which Iran is a threat. The Obama administration, for example, prioritized limiting Iran's ability to acquire nuclear weapons.

"The current administration seems to be gathering at whatever element of threat is most severe at the time," Fleury said, adding there's "not a whole lot of evidence that sanctions and periodic demonstrations of force are going to break the regime entirely."

"There has to be more of a narrow or a more concrete understanding of what they're trying to accomplish rather than turning them from a bad state into a good state," he said. "Negotiations have to proceed around concrete topics."

j.bergman@theday.com

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