Supplementary Discussion of the President’s Powers Relating to the Seizure of the American Embassy in Iran

Headnotes: 

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats are not subject to any form of arrest or detention even in case of armed conflict, though their movements may be restricted.  Iran’s conduct might be invoked in this case as a ground for suspending the Convention, in which case non-forcible reprisals against its diplomats in this country may be used.

The President may use his constitutional power to protect Americans abroad, subject to the consultation and reporting requirements of the War Powers Resolution.  While not unconstitutional on their face, these requirements may have applications which raise constitutional questions insofar as they limit the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act together authorize the blocking of Iranian assets and the subsequent licensing of particular transactions.  These statutes specify the procedures to be followed in the event such a course is followed.

Updated July 9, 2014