The first US military action with the authorisation of President Joe Biden’s air raids in eastern Syria on Thursday has drawn criticism in the Middle East. The US military said it carried out measured attacks on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militias, in response to rocket attacks against US targets in Iraq.
The air raids were “deliberate” and aimed to “de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq”, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Some commentators said there was a clear effort to draw a distinction between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump, who in response to attacks on coalition forces in Iraq used “the most disproportionate force by killing the Iranian general (Qassem) Soleimani”, said Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi in Washington, DC.
Seyyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor of English literature and orientalism at the University of Tehran said the move showed how Biden and Trump are the same.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to his Syrian counterpart on Friday hours after US air raids.
“The two sides stressed the need of the West to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria,” the Iranian government website Dolat.ir said.
US journalist Ayman Moyeldin drew a timeline to show similarities between Biden’s move and several former US presidents.
The US has long been criticised for military intervention in several Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq and Libya and imposing regime change leading to political chaos and instability.
In the US, the move was also met with condemnation.
Hillary Mann Leverett, CEO of the political risk consultancy Stratega, said while the air raids sent a message about the Biden administration’s loyalties in the region, they would not diffuse the situation in the Middle East.
“The Biden administration is trying to portray this first US military attack as measured in consultation with allies. But this won’t de-escalate anything.
“In fact, it signals very strongly a message to Iran that … the Biden administration is in fact trying to increase its pressure and leverage against Iran.”
The rocket attacks on US positions in Iraq were carried out as Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former US President Trump.
It was not clear how, or whether, the raid might affect US efforts to coax Iran back into a negotiation about both sides resuming compliance with the agreement.
Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, criticised the US attack as a violation of international law.
“The United Nations Charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible,” she said. “None of those elements is met in the Syria strike.”
Justin Amash, a US lawyer who formerly served as the representative for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district said the move was unconstitutional.