President Biden remained notably silent on Friday after authorizing airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria on Thursday night as some of his Democratic allies call for an explanation of a move that raises the stakes for his nuclear negotiation efforts with Iran.
During former President Barack Obama’s term, congressional Democrats were often frustrated by his targeted drone and other military strikes on extremist organization operatives and targets. They attempted to negotiate a new force-authorization measure to cover targeted strikes but could not even agree on the definitions of key terms with Republicans, the Obama White House, and even themselves.
“The American people deserve to hear the administration’s rationale for these strikes,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said in a statement. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”
The Pentagon late Thursday characterized the retaliatory strikes against infrastructure used by militant groups Kait’ib Hezbollah and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada as “defensive” in nature.
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,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
But another Senate Foreign Relations Democrat, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, called the non-congressionally approved strikes “unacceptable.”
“The president unquestionably has the right to defend our nation and our armed forces from imminent attack. But retaliatory strikes, not necessary to prevent an imminent threat, must fall within the definition of an existing congressional authorization of military force,” he said in a statement.
“I have inherent trust in the national security decision making of President Biden, and I know how seriously he takes Congress’s war making powers,” Murphy added. “But 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.”
The Democratic criticism is not limited to the upper chamber.
“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,” House Armed Services Committee member Ro Khanna of California said Friday. “We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate. The president should not be taking these actions without seeking explicit authorization instead of relying on broad, outdated. I spoke against endless war with Trump, and I will speak out against it when we have a Democratic president.”
His press secretary, Jen Psaki, briefed reporters on Air Force One, but the commander in chief has yet to address the strikes. He opted to bypass media questions when walking to Marine One Friday morning en route to Texas.
“The president is sending an unambiguous message that he’s going to act to protect Americans, and when threats are posed, he has the right to take an action at the time and in the manner of his choosing. He also is going to take those actions in a manner that’s deliberative, and that has the objective of de-escalating activity in both Syria and Iraq,” Psaki said.
Asked about the White House’s legal rationale, she cited Article II of the Constitution, which she said gives Biden the “authority to defend US personnel, adding: “The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities, and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks. As a matter of international law, United States acted pursuant to its right of self defense as reflected in Article 51 of the UN’s Charter, the strikes were both necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.
“And I can assure you,” she added, “when I spoke with the national security team, there was a thorough legal process and review in advance.”
Earlier, Kirby said the strikes were in response to recent attacks against an Iraqi base used by Americans on Feb. 15 and a rocket attack in the Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Monday.
“The strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” the statement added.
Administrations from both parties since 9/11 have pointed to the authorization of the use of military force measure passed after the 2001 attacks and the Constitution’s provisions on presidential national defense powers as giving presidents ample powers to order such strikes.
The move against the Iranian-backed groups comes as the Biden administration hopes to restart nuclear negotiations with Iran. Earlier this week, Kirby refused to attribute blame to Iran for the attacks, opting to wait for an Iraqi-led investigation.
Author : Abraham Mahshie
Source : Washington Examine : Biden mum on strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria as Democrats call for explanation