Biden Gives Go-Ahead On Airstrikes In Syria Amid A Flurry Of Controversy

Last Wednesday night President Joe Biden approved an airstrike that struck an Iranian-backed facility in Syria, amid bipartisan criticism on how to act. The move came weeks after Iran launched a missile at US targets in Iraq, killing a US contractor and wounding another service member. Following the initial Iranian attack, a first test of the Biden administration in the Middle East, some Senators from the Republican side saw blood in the water and pressed the President to take action. From Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), many Republicans voiced support for retaliating against the Iranian government. It wasn’t what happened during the retaliatory strike that frustrated Biden’s counterparts in Congress however, it was before the counterstrike. Only the congressional leadership, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were notified before US action took place.

War powers have been a topic of much controversy and bipartisan debate on what the President can and can’t do without Congressional approval. Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress has the power “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”. Since President Biden didn’t consult with the full Congress, many like Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) believe this attack needs legal justification- at a minimum. This also upset progressive Democrats such as Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), who have always been vocal opponents of US involvement in the Middle East. Following a confirmation defeat and minimum wage knock by the Senate Parliamentarian, it has not been the start to the Biden presidency many were hoping for.

President Announces Strikes Against Syria

Despite warnings that Russia would retaliate, President Donald Trump addressed the nation last night and announced that the United States would launch precision airstrikes against military targets in Syria. The United Kingdom and France are joining the United States in the assault. Syria has been accused of repeatedly violating international law by using chemical weapons against civilians.

Shortly after the president’s announcement, the Russian ambassador to the United States said there would be “consequences” for the president’s decision. Russia has since called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. That meeting will occur at 11:00 am EST on Saturday, April 14. A statement this morning by Russian President Vladimir Putin “condemned” the strike, citing concern for civilians on the ground.

While Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there would not be another attack on Syria unless they continued to use chemical weapons, President Trump said he was “prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

President Trump has taken decisive action in a region that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, did not. Infamously, former President Obama referred to Syria’s use of chemical red lines as a “red line” that would necessitate a response from the United States. In the end, President Obama went to Congress for support of retaliation against Syria. Congress did not approve of the request, and no action was taken by the Obama Administration.

A tweet from Donald Trump when President Obama considered a similar airstrike against Syria.

Interestingly, President Trump called on the president to go to Congress at the time. In this strike, the Trump Administration did not seek permission from either Congress or the United Nations. Whatever the president’s history on the issue, he has made clear that the United States will not tolerate repeated breaks with international law.

The decision drew negative responses from both sides of the aisle. Some Democrats were wary of the president’s decision. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted, “So Mattis doesn’t want to strike Syria because it risks dragging U.S. into a broader war with Russia and Iran, but he has to do it anyway because Trump tweeted about it. Welcome to the Trump national security nightmare we’ve been waiting for.”

Hillary Clinton’s running mate from the 2016 election, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), called the strike “illegal.”

Some conservative supporters of the president also opposed the decision to launch military strikes. Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tweeted his opposition, doubting whether Assad was even behind the attacks.

Debates about legality are common after these kinds of attacks, but they echo the ones launched last year by President Trump under similar circumstances. This round of strikes attacked one research facility near Damascus where the weapons were sometimes produced as well as two additional facilities, one that was being used to produce sarin gas and another that acted more as a military command post.

The international response seems to be largely supportive, especially given the inclusion of the United Kingdom and France. As of now, Russia’s retaliation seems confined to the boundaries of the United Nations, but a military response may await.

Cover image from the NY Post.

Trump Weighs Options in Syria

Within the next 24 hours, President Donald Trump will be unveiling his administration’s response to news that the Syrian government has used chemical warfare on its people. The president announced that he was canceling a scheduled trip to Latin America so that he could focus on the developments in the Middle East. On Monday, he said his response would come within 48 hours. The clock is now ticking.

Most foreign policy experts seem to anticipate the president announcing a targeted airstrike, but that option may carry risks. Russia has said it will use military force against the United States if it attacks Syria, raising the possibility of a far more devastating international conflict. Russia has aligned itself with the Assad regime in Syria, which is the existing government in the nation that has been rocked by civil war since 2011.

Members of the Trump Administration have had harsh words for Russia and its support of Assad’s government. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Russia of being complicit in the recent chemical attack, saying that Russia’s hands were “covered in the blood of Syrian children.” Haley’s comments are emblematic of the rising tensions between the United States and Russia over the matter of Syria. Despite the Trump Administration’s relationship with Russia, Ambassador Haley told the United Nations that the United States would respond. The nature of the response, however, remains unclear. She even went as far as to say that Russia itself may face repercussions from the United States.

The president took to Twitter to denounce Assad’s chemical attack, calling the Syrian leader “Animal Assad.” It remains to be seen how the president’s language will translate into a formal response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

Cover photo taken from NBC News.