Is Biden right to call airstrikes on Iran-backed militias?


Fact Box

  • President Biden launched “defensive” airstrikes in the evening of Sunday, June 28, 2021, into Iraq and Syria to “target Iranian-backed militias” in response to alleged drone attacks. 
  • Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the airstrikes targeted “facilities utilized by the network of Iran-backed militia groups responsible for the series of recent attacks against facilities housing US personnel in Iraq.”
  • In retaliation, on Monday, June 29, 2021, the “US forces in Syria were attacked by multiple rockets” with no injuries. Iraq’s military condemned the attack saying it was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty
  • The second of Biden’s attacks followed ongoing negotiations in Vienna for the Iranian nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The 2015 agreement was dropped by the Trump administration, but taken up again by President Biden under the hopes of scaled back sanctions and a return to original commitments.

Louie (Yes)

President Biden's mission to revitalize the United States' image among the rest of the world involves maintaining peace through strength. His decision to call airstrikes on Iran-backed militias demonstrates a keen sense of awareness as it re-establishes America as a force to be reckoned with. 

Firstly, the airstrikes this week came in response to an Iran rocket attack that killed one US contractor and wounded a US serviceman. Biden's decision and swift execution elucidate his loyalty to the US servicemen and women abroad. As Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby stated, about 2500 US troops are stationed in Iraq, and the airstrikes were meant to 'disrupt and deter' further violence on those troops. 

Subsequently, the strikes this week are justified through Article 51 of the United Nations Charter that specifies the right to act in self-defense, seeing as the rocket attack that occurred resulted in US fatalities. Biden's call to retaliate does not defy any of the United Nations' laws.

Although the airstrikes might be questionable morally, a statement from the Iraqi Militia clarified that only four Iran-backed militia fighters were killed. This statement explained how no civilians were killed, unlike airstrikes from previous administrations.

Conclusively, President Biden's decision this week enhances America's reputation on the world stage. Rather than settling for complacency, Biden ordered an airstrike out of retaliation and precaution. At the same time, the strikes did not result in aimless death. These decisions come with responsibility, and as President Biden will now engage in turmoil with Iraq and Iran, it is important to prioritize American troops' well-being while simultaneously establishing the country's reputation and image among the rest of the world.

Kevin (No)

It would be foolish to take anything US politicians or the media have said about conflict in the Middle East at face value. US officials and the media have been caught lying about the situation before. There is evidence that CENTCOM chief Kenneth McKenzie has previously 'manufactured a crisis' in Iran for personal gain. Considering the relevant history under both Republican and Democratic administrations and the willingness of major news outlets to cheer it on, it seems more than reasonable to view any justification given for these kinds of military actions with a skeptical eye.

In this case, the justification for these recent airstrikes is based on alleged attacks against 'facilities used by US and coalition personnel,' which seems to indicate that the facilities are not actually US property. The US presence in both Syria and Iraq is unjustifiable—and by standards of international law, illegal—which puts military actions like this in the same category. Many of the actions of the US military in the region could be considered war crimes, according to rules the US helped create. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to regard this strike as defensive, continuing such tit-for-tat behavior in an area we have no right to be in, to begin with, does nothing but continue the cycle of violence. As Gregory Brew of Southern Methodist University's Center for Presidential History wrote, the most likely path to ending these strikes is if 'either the US or Iran capitulates and withdraws,' and it seems only right that Biden makes the first move in that direction.

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