Sen. Bernie Sanders responded on Friday to president Donald Trump's assertion that Iran was behind Thursday's suspected attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman with a call for restraint against pursing what he said would be a dangerous and "illegal" war against the country.
"Attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman are unacceptable and must be fully investigated," the Vermont Independent and 2020 president hopeful said in a statement. "But this incident must not be used as a pretext for a war with Iran, a war which would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region, and the world."
"The time is now for the United States to exert international leadership," Sanders continued, "and bring the countries in the region together to forge a diplomatic solution to the growing tensions."
The Trump administration late Thursday released video footage that it claimed proved that Iran was behind the alleged attacks, though the Japanese owner of one of the tankers on Friday appeared to contradict the White House narrative.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday also claimed, without evidence, that Iran was behind not only Thursday's alleged oil tanker attacks but other "recent similar... attacks on shipping."
In his new statement, Sanders appeared to confront Pompeo's reported assertion in a closed door meeting with lawmakers that the 2001 AUMF provides legal grounding for a war with Iran.
"I would also remind President Trump that there is no congressional authorization for a war with Iran," said Sanders. "A unilateral U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal and unconstitutional."
The Gulf of Oman incident must not be used as a pretext for war with Iran. War would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region, and the world. A unilateral U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal and unconstitutional. https://t.co/D8QK7k50Ur
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 14, 2019
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who cast the sole dissenting vote against the AUMF, made a similar point on Thursday.
"Let me be perfectly clear: the Administration does not have the authorization to go to war without Congressional approval," she tweeted. "Trump and Pompeo must come before Congress and make their case before any action is taken."