President Joe Biden drew praise from hawks and accusations of hypocrisy from critics after he authorized a reprisal airstrike on Syria, claiming that by bombing “Iran-backed militia” infrastructure, he is deescalating tensions.
The Biden administration, which has publicly stated its intention to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and back away from its predecessor’s war-mongering approach, has been panned for seemingly following in Donald Trump’s footsteps on Thursday with an airstrike on Syria.
The war machine is back. Biden just hit Syria with a missile strike.
— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) February 26, 2021
The Pentagon said that the attack was launched at 6 pm eastern time on Biden’s order, and resulted in the destruction of “multiple facilities” believed to be run by Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria. The Pentagon spun the assault as a “defensive precision strike,” saying it was in retaliation to rocket attacks on the US and coalition troops in Iraq.
However, it appears not everybody bought that narrative. People online were quick to remind Biden and his staffers of previous statements denouncing such incursions as dangerous escalations that encroach on Syrian sovereignty.
Online sleuths dug up a tweet by Biden’s current spokesperson Jen Psaki, denouncing the Trump administration’s missile strike on Syria in April 2017 as illegal.
“Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country,” Psaki tweeted at the time.
Great question, Jen! https://t.co/JuV703DaFk
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) February 26, 2021
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) February 26, 2021
In January last year, Biden also chided Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, calling it “a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region.”
As we await details on the strike on Iran-backed militias in Syria, here’s what Biden said last year about the strike on Soleimani in Iraq. “Hugely escalatory move.” https://t.co/QSlpdlouWT
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) February 26, 2021
There have been unconfirmed reports of casualties resulting from Thursday’s strike.
Some observers pointed out the irony in the Pentagon’s claim that the bombing raid somehow aimed to “de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
Pentagon statement about air strikes tonight against Iran-backed groups in Syria. (all of the best strikes «de-escalate conflict). pic.twitter.com/oXCv0Ycy4P
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) February 26, 2021
For some, the airstrike poured cold water on expectations that the Biden administration was poised to rejoin the landmark nuclear accord in the near future, though prominent ‘Never Trumper’ Jennifer Rubin suggested that the attack is compatible with the Biden’s administration declared interest in the JCPOA.
I’m sure they’ll be restarting that Iran Deal any day now https://t.co/zll5OnGpbS
— Rob (@robrousseau) February 26, 2021
Good to see Biden deals with Iran on this, not letting it slide in hopes of getting Iran back to the table. https://t.co/PDmUi676qI
— Jennifer ‘pro-reality’ Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) February 26, 2021
The BBC’s Suzanne Kianpour also praised the bombing raid, arguing it is part of the Biden administration’s negotiating tactics.
The move also drew accolades from Mark Dubowitz, the head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), described as a hawkish neo-conservative think tank set up after 9/11 to push the War on Terror.
“Credit to the Biden administration for responding. Turning a blind eye to regional aggression and offering economic relief will only encourage more destructive behavior by the regime in Iran and their proxies,” he wrote.
While Washington claimed that the strikes were in retaliation to recent attacks on American and coalition personnel in Iraq, it did not specify which one. Tehran denied any involvement in the recent rocket attack near a US military base in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan that killed one non-American civilian contractor and left nine others injured, including one US service member, on February 15.
The attack was claimed by a Shia group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam at the time.