Saturday Jan 25, 2020
Chairman U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel has criticised President Trump for beating drums of war against Iran. He has asked the White House to back off and not have another perpetual war.
In an exclusive interview to this scribe in New York, Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee spoke openly about the tension with Iran and prospects of peace in Afghanistan as well.
I asked the senior Congressman, if he sees war looming large against Iran? Eliot Engel didn’t say NO. He, replied in a bit more diplomatic terms by saying that, ‘I hope not’.
Eliot Engel said he was certainly not in favour of wars. He, continued by admitting that, ‘The United States, frankly, has been involved in too many wars in the last twenty years. And, I think it’s time to back off and not have a perpetual war’.
Advocating a step back policy doesn’t mean that Eliot Engel is in favour of not containing the ever increasing influence of Iran in the region.
The Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee made it clear that, ‘backing off doesn’t mean we put our heads in the sand and do nothing. The United States is the super power. we have a rich tradition in democracy. We feel strong about these issues. And, United States has to get involved’.
What Eliot Engel wanted to articulate was drawing a clear line between going to war and managing the situation in a diplomatic way.
President Trump’s aggressive approach against Iran has alarmed Democrats like him. The unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or nuclear deal was the first strong signal. And, the assassination of a serving General of Iranian Revolutionary Guard was another solid indication that the drums of war were beating.
For seasoned politicians like Eliot Engel, assassinating General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad was ‘an ill-advised action’. After all, the general was on an official visit.
Iraqi PM Adil Abdul- Mahdi had revealed that, ‘I was supposed to meet General Soleimani in the morning, the day he was assassinated. He came to deliver a message from Iran in response to the message we had delivered from the Saudis to Iran.’
Knowing well that whatever Iraq says, Trump will not listen to the Democrats, the U.S. House of Representative has passed a resolution to stop the President from taking further action against Iran.
Citing long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Eliot Engel said that, ‘Both those wars were instituted by the President of the United States of that time. I think it’s time for the Congress to take back what the constitution has rightfully given it’.
Eliot Engle said that Foreign Affairs Committee had held a hearing and asked Secretary Pompeo to attend it. But, he didn’t. In the coming weeks, there will be more hearings.
The chairman has asked Mike Pompeo to appear on his own. At the same time, Engle has warned that, ‘If Secretary Pompeo doesn’t come on his own, then we have something called subpoena available to us’.
Chairman Engle observed that ‘The congress is a co-equal branch of government. It means that the president is not a king or a dictator. And, he has to deal with the congress. This is the way constitution is written. Chairman Engle sarcastically remarked that, ‘I know they may not like it in the White House. But, they have to live with it’.
It’s ironic that after the World War II, no president of the United States has allowed Congress to exercise its constitutional right to declare war. And, there is no chance that the Republican-led Senate will now allow the Democrats' dream to come true.
In this interview, the senior Congressman also briefly touched upon the situation in Afghanistan. I asked how optimistic he was about the ceasefire offer by the Taliban? And, what role Taliban may be offered in the next government?
Eliot Engel avoided going in details. Yet, he said that, ‘I don’t know if it will last. Right now we are grasping it. But, what I do know that the American people are tired of never-ending wars’.
He concluded by saying that, ‘I am not in favour of abolishing the American military. Our military has done a wonderful job. But we don’t need to get involved in every single battle or every single grievance or every single dispute a country has’.