Is Biden right to order Syrian missile strike?


Fact Box

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 
  • On January 26, 2021, the Biden administration enacted their first military action, delivering an air strike “targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria” that has reportedly hit “‘multiple facilities’ and was ordered in response to attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq.”  
  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the attack had legal authority as the US “acted pursuant to its right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.”
  • The Trump administration carried out military action against Syria in 2017, when under the support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US launched “missiles at Shayrat Airbase from which the Syrian regime launched its chemical attacks on Khan Shaykhun” and then again in 2018 alongside France in response to April 7 Douma chemical attack.

Ethan (Yes)

The missile strike Biden ordered was in response to rocket attacks fired by Iran-backed militias on United States forces a few days earlier. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the strikes were 'a defensive and 'proportionate' move following several rocket attacks on American facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Erbil this month.' Several US service members were killed in these rocket attacks, making the US airstrikes justifiable and necessary.

Tensions between the United States and Iran are high, and that's no secret. In 2018 alone, Trump made at least nine threats to foreign countries. The consequences of these threats likely followed Biden into his presidency, and he may face challenges from those nations. As a result, there may be temptations to attack the US now and test how willing we are to hold our ground. This airstrike sends the message that any attacks directed towards the US military won't be tolerated regardless of what occurs in the US. 

According to The Washington Post, 'The attack comes as President Biden attempts to open a diplomatic door to Iran. [. . .] a US message to Iran that it cannot improve its leverage in talks by attacking US interests.' Biden's decision demonstrates US intentions to resume the engagements originally dropped or neglected during Trump's presidency. In addition to protecting our service members, the US won't be coerced by Iran's attacks into accepting less than we deserve in agreements and negotiations. The US intends on re-taking its place and won't be pressured into submission by violent attacks.

Kevin (No)

The Biden administration has attempted to justify the missile strike by saying it was retaliation for 'recent rocket attacks on US forces in northern Iraq.' However, those rocket attacks 'came more than a year after Iraq's parliament voted to expel US troops,' as reported by Democracy Now. The Pentagon claimed the strike was carried out against 'Iranian-backed militant groups,' but Iranian officials have denied ties to the group which carried out the attacks in Iraq. Regardless, it is not truly a defensive action when the US is acting as an occupying force in another country, especially when that occupation began during an illegal war. Also, as Congressman Ro Khanna pointed out, '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.'

During Trump's presidency, Biden's current press secretary Jen Paski 'questioned the legality' of similar previous administration strikes. Biden himself called Trump's attack on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani 'a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region,' but now the Pentagon is claiming that this move aims to 'de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,' which seems contradictory to those previous condemnations. The US involvement in Syria has already led to situations, such as CIA-backed militias fighting other militias armed by the Pentagon. It's long past time we stop carrying out illegal and unjustifiable acts of war in the region.

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