By: SEAN HANRAHAN
On February 15, 2021, the US launched an airstrike in Syria with F-15 jets, destroying several Syria-Iraq border control points. The number of deaths are not confirmed; estimates range from seventeen to twenty-two. The airstrike was in retaliation to a rocket attack on coalition forces in Iraq on February 15, which killed a civilian contractor and wounded several, including a US service member. Being the first military act by the Biden administration, it drew some controversy.
The attack was planned to have low impact so that it would not escalate the chance of conflict while also serving as a message to Iran that the new administration will not hesitate to protect American forces.
“President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” said a Pentagon spokesperson. It was made clear that it was strictly defensive and there were measures taken to make sure that the casualties were minimal.
The airstrike was praised by prominent Republican politicians such as Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, who deemed it as necessary and imperative. Protecting US personnel overseas is a necessity for the GOP, and even though most of these politicians didn’t support him, they were pleased with Biden’s retaliation.
However, some Democrats questioned Biden’s authority to carry out these actions. Senators Tim Kaine and Bernie Sanders were concerned that if Biden would escalate his military approach, he would violate the Constitution. Jen Psaki shut claims down that this specific act was unconstitutional. She stated that the administration had conducted a legal review before conducting the strikes.
“As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right to self-defense as reflected in Article 50-1 of the UN Charter. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks,” Psaki said.
Overall, it is a general consensus that the airstrike was the right decision by the Biden administration. Although unexpected by many, it may be a precursor to how Biden will handle his affairs in the Middle East. A mixture of caution and authority is shown and also proves to our adversaries that he should not be undermined.