Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Report: Biden Called Off Strike on Iran-Backed Militias in Syria

Report: Biden Called Off Strike on Iran-Backed Militias in Syria

Saturday, 6 March, 2021 - 08:30
President Joe Biden speaks with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars 2020 Perseverance team, after congratulating them for successfully landing on Mars, during a virtual call in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden had ordered airstrikes on two targets inside Syria last month but the second was cancelled, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“After 10 days of deliberations, President Biden had ordered the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes on two targets inside Syria Feb. 26 when an aide delivered an urgent warning about 30 minutes before the bombs were scheduled to fall,” said the report.

The newspaper said that a woman and children were in the courtyard at one of the sites, according to battlefield reconnaissance.

With the F-15Es in flight, the president stopped the attack on the second target but ordered the strike on the first to proceed.

The previously undisclosed episode involving Biden’s first known use of force as commander in chief “was an unexpected coda to a methodical decision-making approach in which the Biden administration sought to balance competing interests in the Middle East tinderbox,” said The Wall Street Journal.

“The goal was to signal to Iran that the new White House team would respond to a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq against the US-led coalition but wasn’t seeking to escalate a confrontation with Tehran,” senior administration officials said.

US strikes against Iranian targets in Syria hardly come across as surprising given that the war-torn country is a de facto arena for international forces battling terrorist militias. Biden proceeded with the strike without first opting for permission from Congress.

Nevertheless, the move triggered little to no criticism from Congress members. Unlike Biden, former US President Donald Trump faced fierce criticism for ordering similar strikes.

The US intervention in Syria in late 2014 was conditional and operated according to very precise frameworks within the International Coalition to fight ISIS.

US focus centered around eradicating ISIS and liberating areas that were under the terror group’s control in Syria.

Former US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey had repeatedly reaffirmed that the focus of American military presence in Syria was to fight ISIS, despite advisers and allies in the region, such as Israel, having pressured Trump to fight Iran in the country.

Caroline Rose, a senior analyst at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, believes that Biden’s choice to hit Iran-allied militias in Syria reflects a new strategy for targeting the Iraq-based Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The new strategy expands strikes against the two forces from Iraq to include their outposts and presence in Syria, Rose noted to Asharq Al-Awsat.

While the US renewed its commitment to fighting ISIS in northeastern Syria under the leadership of the joint task force, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, the recent strike goes to show that Washington perceives the Iran-linked PMF, which is operating along the Iraqi-Syrian borders, as a destabilizing threat that must be confronted, she added.

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