As soon as Joe Biden and Democrats came to power, American War Drums start beating. The US military on Thursday struck a site in Syria used by two Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon on Friday said the US was responding to attacks by Iran-backed militias earlier this month in which one US military contractor was killed and nine other people were wounded.
President Joe Biden said Friday that a US air strike against an Iranian-backed militia in eastern Syria, the first since he took office, should be seen by Iran as a warning.
Asked what the message was from the air strike, Biden said: “You can’t act with impunity.”
“Be careful,” he added, speaking in Houston during a tour of relief efforts after a huge winter storm in Texas.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said two F-15E “Strike Eagles” dropped seven precision-guided munitions on Thursday on facilities in eastern Syria used by the militias believed to be behind a spate of rocket attacks on US troops in Iraq.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was sending “an unambiguous message.”
“He’s going to act to protect Americans and when threats are posed, he has the right to take an action at the time and in the manner of his choosing,” Psaki said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration wanted to make it “very, very clear — notably to Iran– that they cannot act with impunity against our people, our partners, our interests.
“And I think — and expect — that that message was clearly received,” Blinken said.
US Action Follows the Rocket Attack by Iran backed Terrorists
The US action followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by US and coalition forces fighting IS.
A February 15 rocket attack on coalition forces near the Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan killed a civilian contractor and injured nine others, including four American contractors and one member of the US military who went through concussion protocol. That day, about 14 rockets were fired toward US and coalition forces in Erbil, in northern Iraq.
That attack was the first of three that came in rapid succession.
Over the weekend, at least four rockets struck Balad Air Base north of Baghdad, where a US defense company works on Iraqi combat aircraft.
Then on Monday, two rockets landed in Bahgdad’s international zone, where many foreign embassies are located. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied any ties to the February 15 attack in Erbil, and Iran has not claimed responsibility for any of the other strikes. “While these rumors are strongly rejected, the dubious attempt to attribute it to Iran is also strongly condemned,” Khatibzadeh said, according to a February 16 report by Iran’s state official news agency Mehr.
Casualties In US Attack
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 22 fighters from Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force were killed.
It said US warplanes hit three trucks loaded with munitions coming from Iraq near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal and destroyed border posts of the Hashed, an umbrella group that includes small militias with ties to Iran.
Kirby said the Pentagon had received “preliminary details” about casualties but declined to release any figures.
He said nine “facilities” used by the militias were “totally destroyed” and two “partially destroyed.”
It was the first US military action targeting such groups since Biden took office five weeks ago and came just as Washington had opened the door to resuming negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.
Kirby said the targeted location was used by Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada, two Iraqi pro-Iran groups operating under the Hashed.
Kataeb Hezbollah said one of its fighters was killed and slammed the strike as a “heinous crime in violation of international law.”
Kirby said Iraqi and Kurdish partners had provided intelligence that led to the identification of the groups behind the rocket attacks.
Iraq’s defense ministry denied the US had coordinated with it to conduct the strike, saying it only works together with the US-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Condemnation of the US Attack by Syria, Iran and Russia
Syria and Iran on Friday condemned the attack with Damascus calling it a “bad sign” from the new Biden administration and Tehran saying it would further destabilize the region.
Syria condemned the strike as “cowardly American aggression.”
“It is a bad sign regarding the policies of the new US administration which should adhere to international (norms),” the foreign ministry said.
The Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned what it called “illegal attacks” that are a “clear violation of human rights and international law.”
The air strikes would lead to “intensifying military conflicts and further destabilize the region,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.
Syria’s ally Russia also condemned the attack, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioning the Biden administration’s plans in Syria.
“It is very important for us to understand the United States’ strategic line on the ground,” Lavrov said.
Kirby responded to criticism by Lavrov that Moscow had been notified just four or five minutes before the US struck the targets.
Condemnation in US
The strikes, which mark the US military’s first known action under President Joe Biden, swiftly drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers. US lawmakers, including representatives Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna and former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, said not only did the strikes not follow procedural diligence, they raised the spectre of presidential overreach. The site was not specifically tied to the rocket attacks.
US lawmakers have asked the administration of President Joe Biden to provide legal justification for its decision to launch air strikes on military targets in Syria, amid growing complaints of overreaching presidential war powers enacted after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The strike drew praise from one Republican and quick criticism and concern from Democrats who bristled at the White House failure to brief them.
Some Democrats complained that Biden did not respect Congress’ prerogative and brief the relevant committees beforehand. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had not commented on the strikes as of Friday morning, others made their views clear.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said in a statement that “offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said he has “inherent trust” in Biden’s national security decision-making and that the militia strikes on Iraqi bases hosting US troops are “unacceptable.” But retaliatory strikes require congressional authorization, he said. “Congress should hold this administration to the same standard it did prior administrations, and require clear legal justifications for military action, especially inside theaters like Syria, where Congress has not explicitly authorized any American military action,” said Murphy.
“Military action – in a country where Congress has not authorised war – is unconstitutional in almost all circumstances,” Omar said in a statement.
“The administration must provide a legal rationale for why these strikes met the high bar for military action without Congressional approval. They must also provide transparency around any civilian casualties that resulted from the strike as soon as possible.
“These are the same questions we must ask regardless of the administration. Our Congressional oversight duty does not change depending on who is in the White House,” Omar added.
Reacting to the developments, Senator Sanders said that, for far too long, US presidents had exercised military overreach under the guise of keeping “Americans safe”.
“The president has the responsibility to keep Americans safe, but for too long administrations of both parties have interpreted their authorities in an extremely expansive way to continue war. This must end,” Sanders said in a statement.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said, “there is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization. We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
“The President should not be taking these actions without seeking explicit authorization,” said Khanna, who noted that Biden is now “the fifth consecutive US president to order strikes in the Middle East.”
“I spoke against endless war with Trump, and I will speak out against it when we have a Democratic President,” Khanna added.
Two Senate war powers critics, Democrats Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, also spoke out on Friday over why Biden ordered the attack without first consulting them.
“The American people deserve to hear the administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” said Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.
“Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” he added. “Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”
Murphy, a Foreign Relations Committee member, said in a statement that “retaliatory strikes, not necessary to prevent an imminent threat, must fall within the definition of an existing congressional authorisation of military force”.
Biden’s Hypocrisy pointed out by Social Media users
Joe Biden and his press chief have been accused of hypocrisy after old tweets slamming the Trump administration’s Middle East air strikes resurfaced following last night’s bombing raid on Syria
Social Media users also condemned Biden of being Hypocrite. Many Social Media users posted Democrats’ old Tweets when the condemned former President Donald Trump when he carried out similar strikes in the past.
Points to Ponder
In a curious case, the American retaliation for an attack in Iraq happened not in Iraq but in Syria. How does this stand before international law and sanctity of sovereign dignity?
Ilhan Omar’s tone and belligerence didn’t change even after the Democrat Biden came to power. It’s a wakeup call for USA before making anybody and everybody their public representatives. America should prioritize on American Interests and not the Interests of other countries or subnational groups.
It is time Biden should chalk out his couse of action and not ape previous Presidents. The way George Bush, Donald Trump and others made a permanent mark on the Middle East in their own fashion, Biden should too. Shifting alliances and ditching allies will not work on the long run.
One would note that the Democrats who elected Biden are angry that he didn’t inform the Senate before attacking Syria. After a controversial election which propelled Biden to power, the minimum Biden can do is to take everyone into confidence instead of widening the ruptures.
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