Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a top Trump administration Defense Department official signaled initial praise for President Joe Biden's latest set of airstrikes against Iranian-backed militants, but some lawmakers are using them to re-raise questions about the president's war powers.
The strikes themselves, carried out Sunday against operations and weapons facilities located along the Iraq-Syria border and the second such attack launched by the Biden administration against Iranian-backed militants, were part of the executive branch's responsibility to defend the United States, as outlined in Article II, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed at Monday's briefing.
“The targeted strikes were directed at facilities used by Iran-backed militias involved in these ongoing attacks for purposes including storage and command logistics and unmanned vehicle operations,” the White House's top spokeswoman told reporters. “So Article II, the self-defense, defense of the United States and our interests is our domestic justification for these strikes announced yesterday.”
Biden himself reiterated the justification for the attacks during an Oval Office meeting on Monday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, claiming that “those up on the Hill who are reluctant to acknowledge that have acknowledged that's the case.”
Commander Guy Snodgrass, a retired Naval aviator and former Defense Secretary James Mattis's top Pentagon communications aide, told the Washington Examiner he agrees with the Biden administration's assessment of the strikes.
“These strikes were very important to U.S. interests in the Middle East. They were proportional to recent UAV attacks conducted by Iran, were well-informed by intelligence, and well-executed by the pilots who carried them out. More importantly, they reinforce the reality that America, while willing to negotiate for peace, is still actively engaged in protecting its overseas interests,” he said in an interview.
“The Biden administration strike was tied directly to recent Iranian actions. Many saw Trump’s killing of [former Quds Commander Qasem] Soleimani as being well outside the boundaries of low-intensity warfare, especially by targeting a senior Iranian military leader,” Snodgrass continued. “The storyboard wasn’t there to help the public understand who Soleimani was or why he needed to be targeted in such an extraordinary fashion. And, of course, the manner in which it occurred, in Iraq, only fed fuel to the anti-American fire, which strengthened Russian influence in the region.”
Pelosi offered a similar statement shortly after the strikes were announced on Sunday evening.
“The defensive airstrikes conducted today by the Department of Defense on operational and weapons storage facilities in the Iraq-Syria border region appear to be a targeted and proportional response to a serious and specific threat,” she wrote. “Protecting the military heroes who defend our freedoms is a sacred priority. The Iran-backed militias utilizing these facilities have been engaged in attacks threatening U.S. service members, as well as our allies.
However, California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, one of the House's leading, anti-war voices, told the Washington Examiner he had not yet been “briefed on the imminent harm to our troops, who the President has a duty to protect, and why the Administration believed this was necessary for self-defense.”
“What this shows, however, is the need for a broader strategy to bring our troops home so they are not at risk and to de-escalate the tensions with Iran,” he continued.
A handful of other lawmakers voiced similar concerns on Monday.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, commended Biden’s defensive strike on the proxies’ facilities in Syria and Iraq, also claiming they “highlight the continued need for the 2002 AUMF, or — at a minimum — the need for a comprehensive replacement before a repeal can be considered, especially given that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq are an ongoing threat to American troops.”
In the same statement, he also attacked Biden for lifting “sanctions on Iran and return to the failed Iran nuclear deal, which will financially enrich Iran and the very proxies that are targeting Americans for murder,” instead of presenting “a more focused and clear approach on Iran from President Biden — not one that occasionally responds to its threats, but too often seeks to appease it.”
“The danger here is that you fall into a pattern of military escalation that becomes war without voters ever having a say,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told Politico. “The administration would be better off coming to Congress and asking for a debate on a declaration of war if they foresee a need to continue to go back and forth with … Iranian proxy groups.”
“Protecting American troops is a priority, but clearly continuing airstrikes is not deterring Iran-backed militias from attacking our troops in Iraq,” California Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs also told Politico. “I look forward to hearing a realistic plan from the Biden administration to de-escalate — as we discussed back in February — because we can’t keep launching strikes over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Still, Snodgrass discounted such critiques as “just politics as usual.”
“[What's] more interesting to me would be what they’re saying behind closed doors,” he told the Washington Examiner. “There's a wide gulf between what members say off the record or privately and how they play to cameras.”
As of press time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the vast majority of congressional lawmakers had yet to weigh in on the airstrikes.
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Original Author: Christian Datoc
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