Biden Notifies Congress About Airstrikes on Iran-Backed Militias

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U.S.|‘Ready to take further action’: Biden officially notifies Congress of his airstrikes on Iran-allied militias.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/us/biden-war-powers-congress-iran.html

A funeral in Nineveh Province, in northwestern Iraq, for a paramilitary fighter killed in U.S. airstrikes ordered by President Biden on Sunday.
Credit...Zaid Al-Obeidi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

David E. Sanger

  • June 29, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ET

President Biden officially notified Congress on Tuesday about his justification for recent American airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq, declaring that he acted to “defend the safety of our personnel” and to “deter the Islamic Republic of Iran” and its proxies from further attacks.

The notification, in compliance with the War Powers Act, came as Mr. Biden drew criticism over the strikes from some in his own party — both progressives who generally oppose further military action in the Middle East and some Biden allies who questioned whether he needed a vote of Congress before getting into repeated conflict with the militias.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and one of Mr. Biden’s most enthusiastic supporters, called the actions against Iran in the region part of a “low-intensity war” and said that, at some point, Congress’ approval would be necessary.

The strikes occurred early Monday local time against locations in Syria and Iraq that White House officials said were used to launch unmanned aerial vehicles against U.S. troops in Iraq.

The White House has rejected the idea that Congress needs to authorize such action, saying Mr. Biden acted as many of his predecessors did, under his constitutional authority as commander in chief. Mr. Biden’s formal notification to Congress continued that argument, saying that he acted consistently “with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests.”

The notification concluded with a warning that the United States stood “ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further threats or attacks.” That language could confirm suspicions by many in Congress that this was not a single attack on a terror group, but part of a continuing, low-level conflict.

The formal notification itself was no surprise, but Mr. Biden submitted it quickly, an acknowledgment of the sensitivity of the issue for Democrats. The airstrikes underscored how many conflicting currents Mr. Biden faces as he attempts to fashion a coherent Iran policy. Those include pressures from Congress, from Israel and from Arab allies who worry about his determination to get back into the Iran nuclear accord, and now from a new leader in Tehran, Ebrahim Raisi, the incoming hard-liner who was elected president two weeks ago. He will be inaugurated in August.

Since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, there have been six meetings toward completing work on restoring the nuclear deal, which President Donald J. Trump exited three years ago. No additional meeting has been scheduled since Mr. Raisi won the election as the preferred candidate of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nor has Iran indicated whether it will renew an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear inspection group, to maintain cameras and other sensors that monitor the status of Iran’s nuclear material. Those negotiations remain underway. The last agreement expired on Thursday.

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