• We The People Podcast

Was the Qasem Soleimani Strike Constitutional?

January 09, 2020

In this episode, two war powers experts explain and grapple with the legal and constitutional ramifications of the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian military leader General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Did the president have the authority under the Constitution – as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces – and under domestic and international law to unilaterally carry out the airstrike? Can it be justified as an act of self-defense, a response to an “imminent threat”, or anything less than an act of war? Or, does the law require Congress, not the president, to authorize such strikes? John Bellinger, former State Department Legal Adviser under Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Oona Hathaway, an international law professor at Yale Law and Adviser to the State Department, answer those questions and more in conversation with host Jeffrey Rosen.



John B. Bellinger is Partner at Arnold and Porter where he heads the firm’s Global Law and Public Policy practice. He previously held several senior Presidential appointments in the US government, including as The Legal Adviser to the Department of State under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and as Legal Adviser to the National Security Council.

Oona Hathaway is the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law and Counselor to the Dean at the Yale Law School. She is also a Professor of International Law at the Yale MacMillan Center and the Jackson Institute for International Affairs, and a Professor of Political Science. She is a member of the Advisory Committee on International Law for the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department, and she previously served as Special Counsel to the General Counsel for National Security Law at the U.S. Department of Defense.

​​​​​​Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” 

Additional Resources

This episode was engineered by Greg Scheckler, and produced by Jackie McDermott. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich, Robert Black, and Nicholas Mosvick.

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