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Biden defends airstrike on Syria in letter and says US has the right to defend itself

Business Insider US
Joe Biden at the Lincoln Memorial on January 19, 2021.
  • President Joe Biden justified airstrikes in Syria in a letter to congressional lawmakers. 
  • Biden said he directed the airstrikes in response to a recent militant strike in Iraq. 
  • He said the US "always stands ready to take necessary and proportionate action in self-defense."
  • Visit Business Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden justified his decision to strike Syria in a letter to congressional leadership on Saturday. 

On Thursday night, Biden directed airstrikes against the assets of "Iranian-backed militant groups" in Syria. 

In his letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy, Biden said the strike was "pursuant to the United States' inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter."

The Pentagon said the move came after a series of recent attacks against US and coalition forces in Iraq. Last week, a contractor was killed and others were injured after militants fired rockets at an Iraqi airbase used by the US military.

Biden referenced the attack to justify the strike. 

"In response, I directed this military action to protect and defend our personnel and our partners against these attacks and future such attacks," he wrote. "The United States always stands ready to take necessary and proportionate action in self-defense, including when, as is the case here, the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory by non-state militia groups responsible for such attacks. 

Biden also said he was providing the report as part of his "efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution," which says presidents have 48 hours after taking military action to inform Congress. 

Biden faced criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, many of whom questioned his authority to launch the strikes. 

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted: "We ran on ending wars, not escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Our foreign policy needs to be rooted in diplomacy & the rule of law, not retaliatory air strikes without Congressional authorization."

Members of Congress have previously pushed to repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs), which were enacted after 9/11 and gave presidents the authority to wage war around the world, Insider's John Haltiwanger and Ryan Pickrell previously reported.

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