US President Joe Biden on Friday said that Iran should see the US airstrike as a warning.
On Thursday, the US military on the order of US President Joe Biden struck at a site in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia, in a calibrated response to recent rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said: “At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria.” Kirby stated that Biden will act to protest American and Coalition personnel but 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.”
Kirby said that the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by several Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). The Pentagon also said that according to a Syrian war monitoring group the strike killed 22 militia members.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the move sent an ambiguous message. Psaki said President Biden is “going to act to protect Americans and when threats are posed he has the right to take any action at the time and the manner of his choosing.”
Biden on Friday said that Iran should see the US airstrike as a warning. When Biden was questioned about the message from the strike, he said: “You can’t act with impunity.” He also added: “Be careful.” He was speaking in Houston during a tour of relief efforts after massive winter storm in Texas.
The rocket attacks against US forces were carried out as Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the former President Donald Trump. On February 15, rockets hit the US military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region, killed a civilian and a foreign contractor working with coalition forces, and wounded several US contractors and a soldier. A few days later another salvo struck a base hosting US forces north of Baghdad. On Monday. rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses the US embassy and other diplomatic missions. According to media reports, some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kata’ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without being held accountable.
Biden has received severe criticism that he took military action without congressional approval. Rep Ro Khanna on the House Armed Services Committee told CNN that “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.”
Democratic Rep Ilhan Omar said: “I am deeply concerned about the legal justification of the airstrikes in Syria. Military action — in a country where Congress has not authorized war — is unconstitutional in almost all circumstances.”
Kirby and Psaki addressed the criticism. Kirby explained: “We did what we believe was the proper amount of notification for this. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that we’re going to do what we have to do to notify but we’re also going to do what we have to do to protect our forces.” Psaki stated that the Pentagon briefed congressional leadership “before the action.” She added that “ there will be a full classified briefing early next week at the latest.”