Senior U.S. diplomat Sherman backs repeal of 2002 Iraq war authorization


FILE PHOTO: Wendy Sherman arrives for a meeting on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration backs the repeal of the 2002 congressional authorization for the war in Iraq, saying it is not needed to protect U.S. interests in the foreseeable future, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Tuesday.

"For the State Department, repealing the 2002 AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force) would not affect our diplomatic initiatives. And the administration has made clear that we have no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF, and that repeal would have minimal impacts on military operations," Sherman told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. But that authority has shifted toward the White House in recent years, due partly to the passage of war authorizations like the 2002 AUMF that do not expire.

U.S. lawmakers have been pushing to repeal the 2002 AUMF - partly due to concern that it could be used to justify an attack on Iraq's neighbor Iran without congressional approval, but also as part of an ongoing effort to wrest back war powers from the government's executive branch.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's Democratic chairman, said he hoped that Tuesday's hearing would also help lead to a serious discussion of the repeal and replacement of an AUMF passed just after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that allowed the fight against al Qaeda and affiliates.

"We must have an honest conversation about the scope of this authority and the power of Congress in Article One of the Constitution to declare war," Menendez said.

Caroline Krass, general counsel for the Department of Defense, told the hearing that the Defense Department also agrees that repealing the Iraq AUMF would not imperil the ability to protect the country.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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