Outrage is growing across the region with the Biden administration’s decision to launch another series of illegal airstrikes. The strikes were aimed at facilities in Iraq and Syria on the basis that they were used by “Iran-backed militias.” The Department of Defense stated the United States acted “pursuant to its right to self-defense.” In reality, it was nothing but an act of aggression to preserve the U.S. troop presence in the two countries in violation of the wishes of their sovereign governments.
The Department of Defense’s press release on June 28 stated that the strikes “targeted operational storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq.” The DoD claimed these facilities were used by militia groups like Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which are being thoroughly demonized in the U.S. media as dangerous terrorist organizations.
But this narrative completely overlooks the fact that these groups and their allies were crucial to the defeat of ISIS’s so-called caliphate in the region. It was a victory that came at the cost of thousands of fighters’ lives. While they may have worked alongside Iranians during this battle, their members are Iraqis and Syrians who have their own motivation to fight.
A large rally was held in Baghdad June 29 to protest the U.S. attacks, which was attended by key commanders of the anti-ISIS fight. The demonstration was held near the heavily guarded “Green Zone” that houses U.S. and other western powers’ political and military offices. The same day, fighters in Syria launched rockets at U.S. troops occupying an oil field.
This round of U.S. airstrikes is the second the Biden administration has authorized. The first attacks were carried out in February this year. The Biden administration absurdly claimed “self-defense” then as well due to attacks against U.S. soldiers occupying Iraq. But those troops had no business being in the country — the Iraqi Parliament voted unanimously to expel U.S. forces in early January 2020 amid enormous demonstrations demanding the same. Despite this, the United States is continuing its illegal occupation of Iraq against the wishes of its people to this day.
The Syrian Arab News Agency quoted local sources saying the U.S. airstrikes also attacked residential houses along the Iraq-Syria border, leading to casualties. Both Syrian and Iraqi officials condemned this attack as a flagrant and unacceptable violation of both countries’ independence. Additionally, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces declared that it will not tolerate the United States’ continued illegal occupation, hinting at an intensification of armed struggle. The PMF is a coalition of armed groups, including many of the so-called “Iran-backed militias,” created in 2014 to save the country from ISIS and now officially part of the Iraqi government.
It is important to note the timing of these attacks. Talks on the United States’ reentry into the Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — are ongoing. The deal was signed in 2015, but the Trump administration withdrew in 2018. The sixth round of JCPOA negotiations ended in Vienna just before the bombing without any clear conclusion. This was due to the Biden administration’s insistence on modifying the deal while also refusing to dismantle all of the Trump-era sanctions on Iran. This wanton act of aggression is deeply counterproductive when it comes to the progress of those negotiations toward a just conclusion. But the Pentagon may consider the airstrikes a way to apply additional pressure on Iran.
Regardless of the Biden’s administration’s claims of self-defense, the actual motive behind the attacks are clear: to further violate the sovereignty of Iraq and Syria while threatening Iran. This has nothing to do with protecting U.S. service members, who were senselessly placed in harm’s way by the Pentagon generals. The blame for any escalation from here falls squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. government.