US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced it carried out airstrikes in Syria on Tuesday. The Department of Defense claims the bombs hit facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and were in retaliation for an attack on US personnel in Syria.
The CENTCOM press release asserts that Iranian-supported groups attacked US forces in Syria on August 15, and Tuesday’s bombing was necessary to protect American troops. “Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend US personnel. The United States took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties,” the Pentagon said.
A Pentagon statement on August 15 said a US base in al-Tanf, Syria, was attacked by a series of drones causing no damage or injuries. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. The White House has not provided evidence that an Iranian-backed group carried out the attack.
The US occupies about a third of Syrian territory with 900 troops. Washington claims its forces remain in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamic State. However, Iranian-backed groups support the government of Bashar al-Assad, an avowed enemy of ISIS. In recent months, ISIS has carried out several attacks against Assad’s forces, killing scores of soldiers.
President Joe Biden asserted he had Constitutional authority to carry out the strikes. “The President gave the direction for these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend US personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iran-backed groups,” the press release said.
While Article II may give Biden the power to defend US troops, Congress has never passed a declaration of war or authorization of military force for Syria. Without Congressional authorization, three successive American presidents bombed Syria.
The strikes also come as Washington and Tehran have made significant progress towards reviving the Iran nuclear agreement. The US and Iran have been engaged in indirect talks for over a year. Reuters reported Monday that Tehran had dropped two key demands, paving the way for a deal that would see the US and Iran return to compliance with the nuclear deal.