On Thursday, President Joe Biden authorised airstrikes in Syria against Iranian-backed militia groups, killing 22 militants. Many see the airstrikes as Biden attempting to reassert America’s position as a kind of world-policeman, a role America stepped back from slightly under the leadership of Former President Donald Trump, who pursed a more ‘America First’ policy. However, the strikes have drawn criticism from many who view the attack as unnecessary, inflammatory and, in some cases, criminal.
The airstrikes were launched in retaliation to three rockets landing inside a US Army base in Erbil, Iraq over a week ago. Though no Americans were killed, one foreign civilian contractor was killed, and one US soldier was injured along with several other American contractors. Another rocket hit a base holding American troops just north of Baghdad a few days later, injuring at least one contractor.
Biden’s strategy for dealing with the Middle East has been controversial to say the least. He waited 28 days to call Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, something President Trump did after two days, his administration has been criticised by Turkey for supporting terrorism, and he has sought to distance himself from Saudi Arabia. Many have criticised this strategy as foolish, as all three of the aforementioned countries are vital allies to the US.
Biden’s foreign policy has also been criticised for empowering Iran, though the recent airstrikes authorised by Biden may show that his stance towards Iran will not be as weak as many were concerned it would be. Nonetheless, not everyone agreed with the strike, and a number of high-profile people have come out in opposition to it.
Amongst the critics of the attack was Notre Dame Law School Professor, Mary Ellen O’Connell. She called the attack a violation of international law, saying “The United Nations Charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible. None of those elements is met in the Syria strike.”
However, some praised the attack. GOP Representative Michael McCall, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “Responses like this are a necessary deterrent and remind Iran, its proxies, and our adversaries around the world that attacks on US interests will not be tolerated.”
According to the Pentagon, the strike was launched ‘at President Biden’s direction’, and some political commentators and pundits have suggested that this resembles military action taken by the Trump administration, resulting in comparisons between the current President and his predecessor.