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Senate Set to Vote on Repealing Iraq AUMF: What Does it Mean for U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts?

On Thursday, the Senate is set to vote on a measure that would repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq’s government.[0] The resolution is being sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va.[1]Todd Young, R-Ind.,[1], and is expected to easily pass the chamber.

The White House issued a statement of administration policy on Thursday that said President Joe Biden supports repealing the authorizations and that doing so “would have no impact on current U.S. military operations and would support this Administration's commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners.”[2]

The bill is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t change the fact that the president still has the ultimate authority to decide on when and where to go to war. The bill would not repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) issued in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which gives the president broad authority to use military force against nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks.[1]

The Senate bill is expected to pass, but it is unclear if the Republican-led House will take it up.[3] The House in 2021 passed a similar version of a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF.[1]

The repeal of the Iraq AUMF is an important symbolic reassertion of Congress’ ability to declare war, but it is unclear how it will ultimately effect U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region.[4] The repeal could limit the ability to react quickly to national security threats, while proponents argue that it would make conflict between the U.S. and Iran less likely.[5]

Regardless of the outcome of the repeal, the decision of when and where to go to war will remain dependent solely upon the whims of the executive.[2]

0. “Why Congress’s moves to repeal the Iraq war authorization matter” Vox.com, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.vox.com/world-politics/2023/3/16/23641929/congress-repeal-iraq-war-authorization

1. “Congress will vote to repeal two AUMFs for conflicts in Iraq” NPR, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/16/1163694370/congress-aumf-iraq-war-authorization-repeal-senate-vote

2. “Time to rip up the president's blank check for war” Responsible Statecraft, 16 Mar. 2023, https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2023/03/16/why-we-need-to-repeal-both-the-iraq-and-afghanistan-war-authorizations/

3. “White House signals support for Iraq war authorization repeal” CNN, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/16/politics/joe-biden-congress-iraq-aumf-repeal/index.html

4. “Biden supports repeal of Iraq, Gulf War authorizations, White House says” msnNOW, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/biden-supports-repeal-of-iraq-gulf-war-authorizations-white-house-says/ar-AA18Ikqa

5. “Senate to hold key vote on repealing Iraq war authorizations” CBS News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-iraq-war-aumf-authorization-for-use-of-military-force-vote/

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