WASHINGTON, DC — The Pentagon on Friday said it had domestic and multinational legal authorities under the U.S. Constitution and United Nations international law, respectively, to conduct lethal airstrikes in Syria against Iran-backed militia groups accused of targeting American troops and their allies in neighboring Iraq.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, commented on the legality of Thursday’s strikes in response to a reporter’s questions about concerns expressed by mostly Democrat lawmakers over whether the military action was legally justified.
President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes in Syria that targeted infrastructure used by Iran-backed militia groups accused of launching several rocket attacks in Iraq. On February 15, one of those attacks that targeted the airport in northern Iraq’s Erbil region reportedly killed a Filipino contractor with the U.S.-led coalition and injured six others, including a National Guard soldier and four contractors, all American.
Biden was under pressure to respond, particularly since his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, had swiftly responded to similar attacks by Iran-backed militia groups with retaliatory strikes and after a short tit-for-tat, by ordering the killing of Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani, who was the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. He was killed on Iraqi soil.
Thursday’s strikes mark the first military action by the Biden administration.