US President Joe Biden recently launched attacks on Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. This is not the first time in his young presidency, and it is unlikely to be the last.
For some of Biden’s Democratic colleagues, the key question is: Does the pattern of attack and counterattack constitute an unannounced conflict?
They said that if this is the case, the United States may go to war directly with Iran without the participation of Congress. This issue has become more politically worrying after 20 years of “eternal war”.
“It’s hard to argue, given the speed of attacks on the US military and the increasing frequency of our reactions now, this is not a war,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, told Reuters.
“What we have always worried about is that the United States will fall into war when the American public is actually unable to participate.”
The two countries approached the kind of conflict the Democratic Party feared in January 2020, when the United States killed a senior Iranian general and Iran retaliated by attacking Iraq with missiles, causing more than 100 US troops to suffer brain injuries. Prior to this, a series of exchanges were conducted with the militia supported by Iran.
In the latest round, US fighter jets attacked combat and weapons storage facilities in two locations in Syria and one in Iraq on Sunday. The Pentagon said this was a direct response to drone attacks by militias on American personnel and facilities in Iraq.
On Monday, US troops were attacked by rockets in Syria, apparently in retaliation, but were not injured. The US military responded with anti-artillery fire at the rocket launch position.
“Many people think that the term’eternal war’ is just emotional, but it is actually an appropriate description of the kind of strike we see again (Sunday): there is no strategic goal, no end in sight, only permanent existence and tit for tat. ——Retaliation strike,” Emma Ashford, a resident researcher at the Atlantic Council, said on Twitter.
The White House emphasized that Sunday’s air strikes were designed to limit escalation and prevent future militia operations against American personnel.
According to Biden, they are also legal.
Biden said: “According to Article 2, I have this power, even those on the mountain who are unwilling to admit it recognize that this is indeed the case.” Biden was referring to the power of the U.S. Constitution that stipulates the president as commander-in-chief. a part of. -The commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Brian Finucane, a former official of the State Council’s Office of Legal Counsel, said that the current government, like other previous governments, does not see these incidents as part of an ongoing conflict.
He called it the “slicing salami” method.
“They would describe these as intermittent hostilities. We fought back in February and basically reset the 60-day war power clock,” said Finucane, now at the International Crisis Group.
He compared the oil tanker war in the 1980s with Iran, when the Reagan administration regarded “every round of battle as a closed event.”
But experts say that this view does not take into account that Iranian-backed militias are launching continuous and escalating operations against the US military presence in Iraq.
Michael Knights of the Near East Policy Institute in Washington warned that the use of drones by the militia seems increasingly dangerous. They use GPS guidance and precisely target the US-led coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and missile defense systems.
“In terms of quantity and quality, attacks by Iraqi militias on Iraqi coalition bases are increasing. Unless deterrence is restored, the likelihood of American death is increasing,” Knights said.
Philip Smith said that in addition to driving the United States out of the area, the militia’s secondary goal is to signal the United States, the Iraqi government, and other countries that they have more advanced weapons, such as drones carrying explosives. Near East Policy Institute.
“They rely on some of the secret operations they are doing for a living,” he said.
Members of Congress are currently working to abolish some of the war authorizations used by the bipartisan presidents to justify previous attacks in Iraq, Syria and other places.
But this does not necessarily prevent Biden or any other US president from conducting defensive air strikes.
After listening to a briefing by Biden’s national security team, Murphy said he was still worried. The US military is in Iraq to fight the Islamic State, not the militia allied with Iran.
He said that if Biden is cautious about going to Congress to seek war power, then he may need to pay attention to Americans’ skepticism of Middle East intervention.
“If it is difficult for Congress to authorize military action against Iranian-backed militias, it is mainly because our voters don’t want it. And this is what this debate lacks,” he said.