On Monday June 28, US President Joe Biden approved air strikes against two Iran-backed militias in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. This was in response to recent attacks on US personnel in Iraq. Although there were no U.S. casualties, the Biden administration has shown its willingness to deter both lethal and non-lethal attacks, which led to this airstrike response. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State mentioned the air strikes and commented:[W]We have taken necessary, appropriate and deliberate measures aimed at limiting the risk of escalation but also sending a clear and unequivocal chilling message. â€Iraq tries in vain to end these tensions as they are between two of its strong allies, the USA and Iran exist. That being said, one of the attacks occurred on Iraqi soil, leading to their stern comments to the US government that these air strikes were a “blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security”.
The New York Times reported on the conflict, commenting that “the Pentagon said Monday that the nightly airstrikes should send a message while avoiding escalation”. However, Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the US would “disrupt the security of the region.” This applies not only to Iraq, which is confronted with air strikes on its soil, but also to the ongoing negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran, the end of “eternal wars” and the withdrawal of US troops in the region.
The Biden administration streamlined these air strikes as a proportional response to a threat from Iran-backed militias, saying they would be used to de-escalate conflict. But, as CNN reports, Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Shiite militia group in Iraq, wrote a message in response to those airstrikes that seemed far from de-escalating tensions. They write “[T]his crime will not go unpunished, the decision to revenge has been made, and the American enemy will see death with their own eyes. An eye for an eye and what comes is tough. â€The air strikes approved by Joe Biden’s administration were retaliatory attacks on US bases in Iraq, but in the absence of casualties the response seemed quite extreme. Despite attempts to de-escalate tensions, this resulted in the aforementioned message from Kataib Hezbollah.
The Washington Post These recent strikes reportedly show that Biden’s administration has a lower bar on retaliation than the Trump administration. These air strikes could have unintended consequences as they could disrupt President Biden’s promise to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not involved in this conflict, but these ongoing air strikes were The Washington Post describes as “tat-for-tat strikes” could prolong the deportation process and keep US personnel in other countries in the Middle East. The conflict in Afghanistan is known as the “Eternal War”. IThe question arises whether the continuation of these slightly provoked air strikes will only mean the deployment of US military troops for a longer-term and endless conflict in the region and creates another “eternal war”.
In the event of long-term conflict, there are also concerns that President Biden’s administration may commit acts of war without a proper declaration of war by Congress. Senator Chris Murphy spoke with Reuters, highlight “[I]If Congress has found it difficult to authorize military action against Iran-backed militias, it is mainly because our constituents do not want it. And that’s missing from this debate. â€The concept of military action without the approval of Congress became a major point of contention after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 resulted in the 2001 and 2002 Military Force Authorization, which authorized President George Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq every year.
These bills allow presidents to have much more power in acts of war without the need for congressional approval. For example, NPR reported a comment from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noting that former President Donald Trump used the 2002 authority as a justification for an air strike on an Iranian target in Iraq last year. With the Iraq war almost a decade over, the 2002 authorization and its use as the primary justification for military action has lost its vital purpose. Biden’s actions could be a continuation of those presidential actions that Congress is currently trying to end as the House of Representatives votes to repeal the 2002 AUMC.
In addition to these conflicts, the Biden government is still actively trying to work on the Iran nuclear deal. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the deal is a groundbreaking deal that was signed in 2015. It is stated that “[U]Under its terms, Iran has agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars in sanction relief. improve relations and get them to return there if Iran ensures compliance with nuclear weapons.
Ebrahim Raisi, the newly elected Iranian president, is said to be more willing to comply with the agreement than his predecessor CFR. Hence, Joe Biden’s administration should focus on the diplomacy associated with this deal and seek to keep air strikes to an absolute minimum. While they say it is necessary to send a message against interference by US personnel and forces in the area, the special air strikes to which they responded resulted in no casualties. It is therefore more important for President Biden to focus on rebuilding trust after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, rather than continuing this â€œdeed for deedâ€ mentality. Although the government claims that these actions were designed to deter future air strikes, the response from both the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed militias paints an angry and hostile picture.
The air strikes approved by the Biden administration are only a small part of the more complicated aspects of US engagement in the Middle East. While President Biden pledged to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 2021, he also carried out tougher retaliation and sent air strikes even when there were no U.S. casualties. As reported by The Washington Post, These are Biden’s second military strikes in Syria since February. This leaves Congress suspicious of Biden’s actions and fuels the ongoing debate about “eternal wars”, continued military action in the Middle East, and what warrants congressional approval.
While the House of Representatives votes for the repeal of the AUMF 2002, the AUMF 2001 is still in force and NPR reports that “some say that if the 2001 measure is lifted it will have to be replaced.” to reach. While all of these events can lead to a chaotic situation with different motives for each country and a desire for different outcomes, the deal could arguably be the most important factor in this larger puzzle. It could create lasting peace and limit the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Therefore, President Biden and his administration should focus on enforcing this agreement to improve relations with Iran, the rest of the Middle East and the world.