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Democrats question Biden’s legal justification for Syria strike

Some Democrats in Congress criticized the Biden administration’s airstrike in Syria, questioning the administration’s legal justification in the latest fight between the executive and legislative branches over war powers.

The strike on Thursday marked the US military’s first known action under President Joe Biden. His administration said the strike was in response to Iranian-backed militia groups’ rocket attacks on American forces in recent weeks, and was backed by Article II of the Constitution, as well as the Charter of the United Nations.

But some Democrats said that Congress has not passed an authorization for the use of military force specifically in Syria, and previous resolutions passed in 2001 and 2002 were designed for attacking those responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks and to go into war with Iraq. Congress has not declared war since 1942.

“This makes President Biden the seventh consecutive US president to order strikes in the Middle East,” said California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna. “There is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization.”

“We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate,” he added.

A National Security Council spokesperson said that the administration went through a “rigorous process to include legal review of the strikes conducted,” and said “the strikes were necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.”

The site is believed to be used as part of a weapons smuggling operation by the Iranian-backed militias, according to a US official. The site was used by Iraqi Hezbollah militias near al-Hurri village right on the Syrian-Iraqi borders inside Syria, a resident in Albu Kamal city told CNN under the condition of anonymity for security reasons.

For years, as the US struck sites in Syria and elsewhere, some members of Congress pushed to repeal a broadly interpreted 2001 AUMF and pass a more narrowly defined war powers resolution.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said Friday that Congress “must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously,” noting that “offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances.”

Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations committee with Kaine, said that the recent strikes by Iranian-backed militias on Iraq bases were “unacceptable” and that he inherently trusts Biden’s national security decision making ability. But he added that retaliatory strikes that are not necessary to “prevent an imminent threat, must fall within the definition of an existing” authorization for use of military force.

“Congress should hold this administration to the same standard it did prior administrations, and require clear legal justifications for military action, especially inside theaters like Syria, where Congress has not explicitly authorized any American military action,” said Murphy.

Republicans largely praised Biden for striking against the Iranian-backed militias.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the US response was a “necessary deterrent” that reminds Iran and its proxies that attacks on US interests “will not be tolerated.”

CNN Newsource


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