Biden defends airstrikes on pro-Iranian militias
US President Joe Biden has defended American air strikes in the Iraqi-Syrian border area. He said that the targets were facilities of pro-Iranian militias, which were responsible for attacks against Americans in Iraq. Biden said this Monday (local time) during a meeting with outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House.
Referring to Tehran, he said Iran would never get its hands on a nuclear weapon as long as he was in office. Rivlin said after the meeting that he was "very pleased" with Biden's remarks on Iran. Israel and the United States "must cooperate." The attacks come at a time when negotiations are underway for the U.S. to return to the Iran nuclear agreement.
In addition, Biden rejected criticism from Congress. Members had questioned the president's authority to order the airstrikes. Biden stressed that as president he had the authority under the Constitution. The Pentagon had called the strikes "retaliation" for dozens of attacks on American targets in Iraq in recent months.
The U.S. military had flown airstrikes on several targets in the Iraq-Syria border region Monday night, according to the Pentagon. From those facilities, Iran-backed militias had used drones to launch attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Two targets in Syria and one in Iraq were involved, it said. The Pentagon called it a necessary and appropriate defensive strike. Criticism came from Iraq.
Shiite militias loyal to Iran in turn threatened retaliation and attacked a U.S. Army base in eastern Syria on Monday, according to activists. They fired several missiles at the Omar oil field in Dair as-Saur province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday evening. It said there was property damage. The armed groups are considered an extension of Shiite Iran, are active in both Iraq and Syria, and are demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The spokesman for the U.S. mission in the region, Wayne Marotto, confirmed via Twitter that American troops in Syria had been attacked by several missiles and had fired back with artillery. There were no casualties, he said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington that Biden plans to meet "soon" with Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennet. There is no date for that yet, she said.Israel's new foreign minister, Jair Lapid, and right-wing hardliner Bennett succeeded in mid-June in forging a new coalition government with parties from across the political spectrum, ending the era of long-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Immediately after taking office, Lapid, the previous opposition leader, had announced his intention to improve relations with Europe and with Biden's Democrats.