syria strike
February 27, 2021

Ali Shamkhani, Iran's top security official, said Saturday that the United States' airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria earlier this week will rejuvenate the Islamic State in the region, Reuters reports. "The attack on anti-terrorist resistance forces is the beginning of a new round of organized terrorism," an Iranian news agency quoted him as saying during remarks to visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. More specifically, he said the action "strengthens and expands the activity" of ISIS.

Shamkhani reportedly went on to say Tehran "will confront the U.S. plan to revive terrorism" in the Middle East, but didn't elaborate. Later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the U.S. strikes as "illegal and a violation of Syria's sovereignty."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, provided an in-depth of analysis of the strikes — which were carried out in response to several rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq — suggesting that whether Iran, which denies involvement in the attacks on U.S. targets, chooses to respond in a way that escalates the already-tense relationship hinges on further developments in the Biden administration's diplomacy.

"The administration’s actions and Europe’s support for U.S. decisions in response to Iran’s regional tests will determine whether Tehran believes it can be more aggressive regionally under Biden," Norman Roule, who previously served as the U.S. intelligence manager for Iran, told the Post. "But if the Iranians go up the escalatory ladder, we have no choice but to do the same in order to protect our forces and our partners."

Still, the sense among experts largely remains that President Biden's Iran strategy will be less bellicose overall than former President Donald Trump's. Read more at Reuters, The New York Post, and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

February 26, 2021

Democrats are calling the Biden administration's airstrikes in Syria unconstitutional.

President Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes against facilities in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militant groups, his first military action since taking office. The strikes were in response to several rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

While Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the limited scope of the airstrikes "aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq," many Democrats expressed concerns on Friday that the move has done just the opposite, and argued it wasn't legally justified.

"Some Democrats said that Congress has not passed an authorization for the use of military force specifically in Syria," reports CNN.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said "there is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization ... we need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) agreed, calling for an immediate congressional briefing and saying "offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances."

Republicans, however, were seemingly largely pleased with the move. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.S. response a "necessary deterrent" to tell Iran that attacks on U.S. interests "will not be tolerated," reports CNN. As Fox News notes, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), among others, also applauded the strike, calling it "proportional."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the action as "necessary," and said Biden "has the right to take action" as he sees fit. She said "there was a thorough, legal response" and the Defense Department briefed congressional leadership in advance. Summer Meza

April 7, 2017

President Trump's decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase early Friday "causes significant damage to Russian-American relations, which were already in a deplorable state," said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that Putin sees the airstrikes as a violation of international law.

The missile launch came in response to a chemical attack on Tuesday that killed more than 70 people in Idlib. The U.S. has blamed the attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the Syrian government denies using chemical weapons against its own people, and Russia, one of Syria's allies, backs up that claim.

On Friday morning, Russia condemned the U.S. missile attack and also said it was suspending a deal with the U.S. originally meant to prevent mid-air collisions between U.S. and Russian aircraft flying over Syria.

With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expected to make his first state visit to Moscow next week, the growing tension between Russia and the U.S. could "crush remaining hopes in the Kremlin Donald Trump's presidency could offer a chance to improve bilateral relations," the Financial Times reports. Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of Parliament, said Russia may even consider suspending all military contacts with the U.S.

"There had been the hope that we will have it easy with Trump, but nothing will be easy, it will be very hard," Yelena Suponina, adviser to the director of the think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, said on state TV. "It turns out that there will be a lot of unpredictability. It is very, very dangerous." Jessica Hullinger

April 7, 2017

Saudi Arabia called President Trump's decision to order a strike against a Syrian airfield "courageous," but its foe Iran had the opposite reaction, condemning the strike and saying the "unilateral action is dangerous, destructive, and violates the principles of international law."

Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies, and its Revolutionary Guard soldiers are major players in Syria's civil war. The strike was in retaliation for the chemical attack that killed dozens of people Tuesday in Idlib, Syria, which the U.S. says was carried out by the Assad regime. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Iran did not support a strike in response to the attack, "regardless of the perpetrators and the victims," as it will only "strengthen terrorists" and add to "the complexity of the situation in Syria and the region."

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian parliament's international affairs committee, told Russian media the strike meant there was no longer the prospect of the U.S. and Moscow starting a coalition to fight terror, and it's possible the Pentagon pressured Trump into ordering the operation. "It's a pity," Kosachev said.

Saudi Arabia said the strike was the correct response to "the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it," while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his "full and unequivocal" support and his hope this sends a "clear message" that will "reverberate not only in Damascus but also in Tehran, Pyongyang, and other places." Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his government's backing of the strike, a "swift and just response" that was "calibrated, proportionate, and targeted" and sends a "strong message to the Assad regime." Catherine Garcia

April 7, 2017

A general is among the four Syrian soldiers that were reportedly killed during a U.S. missile strike against the al-Shayrat airfield near Homs, Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the strike, launched early Friday, caused extensive damage to more than 12 hangars and a fuel depot, The Associated Press reports. The U.S. says the Syrian government is behind the lethal chemical attack that left dozens of people in Idlib, Syria, dead, and the airfield was the staging area for the assault. The governor of Homs province, Talal Barazi, told AP three soldiers and two civilians were killed in the strike, while seven people were wounded. Catherine Garcia

April 7, 2017

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), are calling for Congress to vote on authorizing any future military operations in Syria.

"While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked," Paul said on Twitter. "The president needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different." Kaine called it "unconstitutional" for Trump to wage military action without a vote of Congress. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a "brutal dictator who must be held account for atrocities," he said, but Trump's "failure to seek Congressional approval is unlawful."

Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, called airstrikes an "act of war," adding that the "atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from [the] Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war." The framers of the Constitution "divided war powers to prevent abuse," he continued. "Congress to declare war; president to conduct war and repel sudden attacks."

There was support on both sides of the aisle for the strike ordered by President Trump Thursday night, targeting an airfield near Homs, Syria. The Pentagon said the planes that were used to drop chemical weapons on Idlib, Syria, on Tuesday took off from the airfield, which was hit by 59 Tomahawk missiles. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released a joint statement saluting the "skill and professionalism of the U.S. Armed Forces who carried out" the strike, adding, "they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said "making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do," while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the strike "appears to be a proportional response to the regime's use of chemical weapons." Schumer also told the Trump administration it must "come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it." Catherine Garcia

April 7, 2017

The governor of Syria's Homs province said Thursday night the U.S. missile strike targeting the al-Shayrat airfield served the goals of "armed terrorist groups" like the Islamic State.

"Syrian leadership and Syrian policy will not change," Talal Barazi said on state television. "This targeting was not the first and I don't believe it will be the last." Later, he spoke with Reuters and said rescue operations were still going on at the airfield two hours after nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles destroyed a runway, aircraft, and fuel pumps. "I believe — God willing — that the human casualties are not big, but there is material damage," he said. "We hope there are not many victims and martyrs." He also told Reuters the Syrian army uses the airfield as a base for operations against ISIS. Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2017

Russia has failed to hold up its end of a 2013 deal to remove Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, making Moscow either "complicit" or "simply incompetent" in its handling of the agreement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday night.

Tillerson made his remarks after the U.S. launched a strike from the Mediterranean targeting an airfield near Homs, Syria. The U.S. says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime was behind Tuesday's chemical attack in Idlib that killed dozens of people, a claim the regime rejects. Tillerson told reporters there is a "high degree of confidence" sarin gas was used in the assault, and he called the U.S. strike a "proportionate" response. He also contradicted the Pentagon, which said Russia had been notified in advance of the strike via a deconfliction line; Tillerson said "there were no discussions or prior contacts" between the U.S. and Moscow. Catherine Garcia

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