The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Administration officials are briefing Congress on what they say are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill that the White House could invoke the war authorization passed in 2001 as legal cover for military action against Tehran.
As tensions between the United States and Iran have surged, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pentagon officials have told members of Congress and aides in recent weeks about what they suggest is a pattern of ties between Iran and the terrorist group going back to after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said.
They have stopped short of telling lawmakers or aides in large group settings that the 2001 authorization for the use of military force from Congress, which permits the United States to wage war on Al Qaeda and its allies or offshoots, would allow the Trump administration to go to war with Iran. President Trump has said he does not want a war, but he ordered 2,500 additional troops to the region in the last month in response to what American officials said was a heightened threat.
But statements tying Iran and Al Qaeda by Mr. Pompeo and other officials point to the potential for the administration to justify invoking the 2001 authorization, some lawmakers say. And when asked in recent weeks by lawmakers and journalists whether the administration would use the 2001 authorization, Mr. Pompeo has deflected the questions.
“They are looking to bootstrap an argument to allow the president to do what he likes without coming to Congress, and they feel the 2001 authorization will allow them to go to war with Iran,” said Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia.
Mr. Kaine, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, declined to discuss details of classified briefings, but said senior administration officials had “talked about Iran providing safe haven to Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Pompeo, a West Point graduate and former C.I.A. director, visited United States Central Command in Florida on Tuesday to talk about Iran with military commanders as acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan announced his resignation.
In a classified briefing that Mr. Pompeo gave on May 21 with Pentagon officials to the full House, “he discussed the relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan.
She said Mr. Pompeo’s talk of that relationship in both public and private settings and his refusal to answer questions on a potential use of the 2001 authorization “raises the specter that to him, the relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda gives the administration that authority.”
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