[pjw] NEWS: US airstrike kills one, wounds others in Syria (AP 2/26)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Fri Feb 26 13:13:52 EST 2021

Iraq Affinity Group supporters

Below is an article from the Associated Press about an airstrike ordered 
by President Biden in eastern Syria, supposedly (a) in retaliation for the 
airstrike in Iraq that killed a civilian contractor earlier this month and 
(b) to "send a message to Iran." This is all incredibly disappointing but 
not surprising. President Biden has been busy reversing a lot of Trump-era 
damage domestically, including overturning the designation of Portland as 
an "Anarchist city" (if only!) and addressing the COVID pandemic, so you'd 
hope he would lay off the gas on warfare.

The online version of the article links to an earlier AP story that says 
this is the "first" airstrike by Biden, seemingly ignoring the attack in 
Iraq in late January that we reported on earlier.

I sent this correction to them via their webform:

  In your story on the US airstrikes on Syria today, the headline and story
  state this is the first airstrike under Joe Biden, and that the US is
  trying to avoid airstrikes in Iraq due to political sensitivities.
  Is the AP not aware of the US airstrike in Iraq in late January that
  killed an alleged leader of the Islamic State?
  Our group noted that airstrike made Joe Biden the sixth consecutive
  President to bomb Iraq.
  We look forward to an explanation or a correction.
  Thank you
  dan handelman
  Peace and Justice Works
  portland, or

Meanwhile, we didn't get any American peace group notifications yet, but 
Stop the War in London sent this message.

  Stop the War Condemns Biden?s Airstrikes on Syria

  Stop the War Coalition condemns the airstrikes launched by President
  Biden on Syria. There is no justification for further intervention in the
  Middle East. The US says that the attack, which has led to multiple
  deaths, was aimed at Iranian backed groups operating in Syria and Iraq.
  It will only exacerbate existing tensions in the region.

  The role of the US in Iraq has been catastrophic for the people of that
  country and the whole Middle East. The US still has 2,500 troops in a
  country they have devastated since they invaded in 2003. Biden is
  following in the footsteps of his predecessors despite all evidence that
  military interventions do nothing but create destruction and misery and
  the conditions for future wars.

  Stop the War Convenor, Lindsey German, said:

  "It's a disgrace that President Biden managed just 35 days before bombing
  the Middle East. He becomes the latest in a long line of US Presidents to
  use treat the Middle East as a bombing ground. Decades of US intervention
  in the region are cast iron proof that bombing raids do nothing to bring
  about peace."

What they said.

--dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

EXPLAINER: How US airstrike in Syria sends message to Iran
    By ZEINA KARAM and BASSEM MROUEFebruary 26, 2021 GMT

    BEIRUT (AP) -- A U.S. airstrike targeting facilities used by
    Iran-backed militias in Syria appears to be a message to Tehran
    delivered by a new American administration still figuring out its
    approach to the Middle East.

    The strike was seemingly a response to stepped-up rocket attacks by
    such militias that have targeted U.S. interests in Iraq, where the
    armed groups are based. It comes even as Washington and Tehran consider
    a return to the 2015 accord meant to rein in Iran's nuclear program.

    The U.S. appears to have chosen the target, just across the border in
    Syria rather than in Iraq, carefully. It's a way for President Joe
    Biden to signal he will be tough on Iran while avoiding a response that
    could offset the delicate balance in Iraq itself or trigger a wider

    And it's yet another example of how Syria, mired in civil war for the
    past decade, has often served as a proxy battlefield for world powers.


    The U.S. airstrike -- which took place Friday in Syria -- targeted one
    of the most powerful Iran-backed militias in the Middle East known as
    Kataeb Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Brigades. The group is part of the
    Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes an array of Iraqi militias.

    The group was founded after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that
    toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It is different from Lebanon's
    Hezbollah, but the two groups are strong allies. In recent years,
    Kataeb Hezbollah has played a major role in the fight against the
    Islamic State group as well as helping President Bashar Assad's forces
    in Syria's conflict.

    The group was founded by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a veteran Iraqi
    militant who was closely allied with Iran and killed in a U.S. drone
    attack in Baghdad in January 2020 along with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the
    commander of Iran's elite Quds Force.

    The U.S. has hit the group before: In December 2019, an American strike
    along the Syria-Iraq border killed 25 of its fighters and wounded
    dozens. Washington called it retaliation for the death of an American
    contractor in a rocket attack that it blamed on Kataeb Hezbollah.



    The attack is likely aimed at sending a message to Tehran that the U.S.
    will not tolerate attacks against American interests in the region,
    while leaving the door open for talks.

    It comes as the Biden administration faces an uncertain road in its
    attempts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal -- which gave Tehran
    billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its
    nuclear program and that the Trump administration pulled out of.
    Full Coverage: Syria

    In the meantime, relations with Iran have been further strained as the
    country's proxies become more assertive, with Iran-backed militias
    increasingly targeting U.S. interests and allies. That has rekindled
    worries that the standoff relations between the U.S. and Iran could end
    up being fought out in Iraq.

    Already there are signs that Iraq is being used to fight a proxy war.
    Explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia's royal palace in the
    kingdom's capital last month were launched from inside Iraq, a senior
    Iran-backed militia official in Baghdad and a U.S. official told The
    Associated Press this week.



    That is unlikely at this point.

    Biden's decision to attack in Syria does not appear to signal an
    intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region, but rather
    to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq while also avoiding
    embarrassing the Iraqi government, a U.S. ally, by striking on its

    Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said the operation in Boukamal, Syria,
    sends an unambiguous message: "President Biden will act to protect
    American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a
    deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in
    eastern Syria and Iraq."

    A Syrian commentator based in Turkey, Abdulkader Dwehe, said the choice
    of Syria was a wise one.

    "Responding in Iraq could open a front that may be hard to close," he
    tweeted following the attack. "With the Boukamal strike, a valuable
    point, and a political message rather than a military one, have been



    In its first weeks, the new Biden administration has emphasized its
    intent to put its focus on the challenges posed by China -- even as
    volatility and threats to U.S. interests persist in the Middle East.

    But the operation proved the region is never far from a U.S.
    president's agenda.

    By striking Syria, Biden joins every American president from Ronald
    Reagan onward who has ordered a bombardment of countries in the Middle

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