Sarah May
October 30, 2023

Biden formally notifies Congress of retaliatory attacks on Iranian-backed militias in Syria

As hostilities in the Middle East in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel show no signs of abating, President Joe Biden last week gave official notification to Congress that he had ordered targeted strikes on militia groups responsible for attacks on American bases in the region, as the Washington Times reports.

In addition to notifying lawmakers of what had already occurred, Biden pledged to “take further action” as necessary to thwart the efforts of actors from Iraq and Syria working at the direction of Iran.

Notification made

Biden's notification came in the form of a letter sent to newly installed Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-WA).

The communication was made in compliance with the constitutional requirement that any use of military force under the War Powers Resolution be accompanied by formal notice to Congress.

In his letter, Biden outlined the rationale for the military actions taken thus far and vowed to pursue additional steps if and when they become necessary.

Rationale explained

Biden's communication to legislators declared that “militia groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have perpetrated a series of attacks against United States personnel and facilities in Iraq and Syria.”

The president noted that those attacks have involved “unmanned aerial systems and indirect fire” and have resulted in injuries to an unspecified number of American service members, with a contractor suffering a fatal heart attack while seeking shelter during such an assault.

According to the White House, the attacks “have placed under grave threat the lives of United States personnel and of Coalition forces operating alongside United States forces.”

Biden's letter went on to outline the targeted strikes undertaken by the U.S. military in response, stating that they “were intended to establish deterrence and were conducted in a manner to limit the risk of escalation and avoid civilian casualties.”

Standing ready

The dispatch to Congress further noted that the strikes represented “necessary and proportionate action consistent with international law and in the exercise of the United States' inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”

It also reiterated that the U.S. “stands ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further attacks.”

As the Washington Examiner noted, a senior defense official later reiterated the administration's willingness to act in the future as required, saying, “Let's be clear, Iran is responsible. I want to emphasize that the United States does not seek conflict, nor do we desire further hostilities. However, the Iran-backed attacks against U.S. forces are unacceptable and must cease. We are prepared to take further measures to protect our people if necessary.”

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