Congress reacts to USA airstrikes in Syria

Grant Boone
February 27, 2021

Russia, a key military ally of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Friday sharply condemned the US airstrike targeting an Iran-allied Iraqi militia group operating in Syria.

"You can't act with impunity", Biden told reporters in Houston, when asked what message he was trying to send Tehran by ordering the airstrike, carried out late Thursday, that hit a compound in Boukamal, on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq.

Administration officials spent much of the day defending the strike, arguing it was necessary to protect American forces in the region following a series of rocket attacks, including two in the past two weeks in Irbil and Baghdad.

The strikes were a retaliation for a February 15 rocket attack in Erbil, Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and injured an American service member. He questioned President Joe Biden's authority to approve the airstrike.

The airstrikes in Syria came just weeks after the Trump administration, in its final days, reduced us troop presence to 2,500 in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances", Kaine said in a statement.

Kirby said Biden "was well within his legal right to order these actions", citing the same two legal authorities to Pentagon reporters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend United States personnel.

"Our cooperation with the worldwide coalition forces is limited to a specific fight Daesh and its threat to Iraq, in a way that preserves the sovereignty of Iraq", the statement said, using an Arabic term for the Islamic State.

"This really was a defensive strike meant to help protect".

"It is a bad sign regarding the policies of the new United States administration which should adhere to worldwide [norms]", the foreign ministry said.

Administration officials defended the Thursday night airstrikes as legal and appropriate, saying they took out facilities that housed valuable "capabilities" used by Iranian-backed militia groups to attack American and allied forces in Iraq.

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The organization also said the aerial strikes had targeted the positions of two Iraqi groups backed by Iran as well as a munitions shipment that was crossing into Syria from Iraq.

The Pentagon's chief spokesperson John Kirby said: "This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners".

The airstrikes followed recent rocket attacks on USA targets in Iraq.

Russian Federation has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the country's nine-year civil war, clashing repeatedly with USA forces and US -allied Kurds who have been battling the terror group Islamic State on the same battlefield.

"We emphasise on the necessity of action by the Iraqi government to identify the perpetrators of these incidents", Zarif said, according to a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry.

He was killed in a USA drone strike just as he arrived in Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials.

How are the relations between the U.S. and Iran?

The Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned what it called "illegal attacks" that are a "clear violation of human rights and worldwide law".

The U.S. assessment that Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayed Al-Shuhadaa were behind the attacks on U.S. bases threatened to disrupt Washington's outreach to Tehran, especially because the Biden administration had conducted a number of good-faith gestures to re-engage in nuclear negotiations.

The administration's decision to strike a militia site in Syria, rather than Iraq, reflects its intent to minimize friction with Baghdad, which vigorously criticized unilateral USA attacks on militia targets during the Trump administration. Some information came from Reuters.

"It sent the signal that Biden won't be a pushover on [Iranian] proxy activities, though the Iranians may not even register that", said Phillip Smyth, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who studies Shiite militias in the region.

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