Political tensions continue to intensify between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The conflict, which at first seemed to be limited to the two countries, has started spreading whilst negatively impacting other Middle Eastern countries. Back in May of 2019, word spread that Iranian forces were planning on attacking the American military. On February 22, 2021, the United States military attacked Syria, in which at least 17 pro-Iran fighters were reportedly killed by means of airstrikes. The Eastern Syrian land utilized by the Iranian military was destroyed through the rocket attacks, which were directed by President Joe Biden in which U.S. fighter jets were left responsible for dropping seven 500lb bombs.
The Pentagon defended their actions by arguing that the strikes were a direct response to the threat of U.S. troops being attacked in Iraq and refused to display any form of remorse. They called the U.S. military airstrikes “proportionate,” with coalition partners claiming that they “acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation.” The U.S. Secretary of Defense confirmed the government’s satisfaction when he said, “we are confident with the target we went for. We know what we did.” Contrastingly, Iran condemned the U.S. for violating Syria in something which they were not involved in, while also denying responsibility to the previously mentioned rocket attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
Many hoped that with the election of a new president, America’s relationship with the Middle East would mend over time since Donald Trump had the tendency for taking impulsive decisions. However, to many people’s disappointment, instead of implementing change to the already intense relationship, President Biden seems to possess the same level of hostility towards the Middle East. In fact, Biden openly warned Iran by saying, “You can’t act with impunity, be careful.” Looking at matters through a historical lens, this event marks Biden as the seventh consecutive U.S. president who ordered military air strikes in the Middle East.
There has been much controversy surrounding this topic, of whether or not it was a good idea for the U.S. to have gone through with airstrikes. Although they claim it to have been “calculated” it seems much more out of the blue and aggressive, which counteracts the whole purpose of the airstrike. The operation has been criticized by some in the U.S. Congress on the grounds of it being unconstitutional. Even Representative Ro Khanna vocalized her dissatisfaction when she argued that there was no proper legal justification for the Biden administration to authorize such a military strike as it does not fall under the realm of self defense given there was no imminent threat. To make matters worse, the airstrikes were carried out without the consent or authorization of Congress. However, Biden refuted all claims against him and defended the airstrikes by arguing that it was the only effective way to protect the U.S. military and its partners against future rocket attacks.
If there is no form of intervention set in place, it seems as though both the U.S. and Iran are each other’s targets, while putting other weak Middle Eastern states such as Syria at risk, until their conflict comes to an end. It seems as though the U.S. government is under the false impression that they can get away with fighting fire with fire. Their logic seems flawed, since this event will only give rise to more missions and airstrikes to take them down, which is bound to let this military conflict go on for centuries. Instead of adding this as yet another event on the list of conflicts the U.S. has with the Middle East, the government should play a more active role in limiting the power of figures such as the president who seem to have unlimited control over the military.
The need for more effective checks and balances is vital for the maintenance of peace, especially in regards to the protection of innocent states. The way in which the airstrikes were initiated without the approval of Congress should open the eyes of politicians and government officials to the amount of unchecked power granted to the president. This event alone should inspire officials to initiate a system of penalties towards the president. Only when there is awareness brought around the ineffective nature of such ruthless military actions, will political tensions alleviate. Without halting the senseless bombing of each other’s land, there is no opportunity for both countries to reach any sort of resolution.
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