Little more than a month into his tenure in the White House, President Joe Biden authorized limited airstrikes Thursday against Iranian-backed militias operating in Syria, ABC News reported.
The airstrikes — which were said to have caused “a handful of fatalities,” according to an unnamed official — came in retaliation for a recent rocket attack against a U.S. base in Erbil, Iraq that killed at least one coalition contractor and wounded several American contractors and a U.S. service member, reports noted.
“An unambiguous message”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced the news in a statement Thursday night.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” Kirby said.
“These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he added. “Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).”
Kirby also said the “proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with Coalition partners.”
“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel,” the Pentagon official declared. “At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
“The same standard”
ABC reported that the target of the strike, which involved only two aircraft, was the smallest of several options presented to Biden by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. But while many cheered the attack, not every lawmaker was thrilled at the news.
Politico reports that even a few Democrats who staunchly opposed former President Donald Trump’s use of military force without express congressional authorization have remained consistent in their positions — for once — and have been sharply critical of Biden’s move.
“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said, according to Politico. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” he added.
Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) similarly charged that “retaliatory strikes, not necessary to prevent an imminent threat, must fall within the definition of an existing congressional authorization of military force.”
“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,” Murphy declared, according to Politico.