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Sparking swift criticism of U.S. imperialism, the United States on Thursday carried out airstrikes ordered by President Joe Biden on facilities in Syria that government officials told reporters belonged to Iran-backed militia groups—retaliation for a trio of recent rocket attacks on bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops.
"We cannot escape the realities of how we got here, decades of U.S. war in the Middle East and a continued belief that bombs will somehow bring peace."
—Win Without War
"Joe Biden just dropped bombs on Syria. Here we go again," tweeted the Gravel Institute, a progressive think tank.
BREAKING: @JoeBiden just bombed Syria. American imperialism rages on no matter which party is in power.
— Ryan Knight (@ProudSocialist) February 26, 2021
Shahed Ghoreishi, a fellow at Defense Priorities, where he advocates for restraint in U.S. foreign policy, cautioned that the strikes "shouldn't be blown out of proportion" in terms of negotiations on the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly called the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite warnings that it boosted the chances of another U.S. war, then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and implemented a series of devastating economic sanctions; as a candidate for president, Biden vowed that he would return the United States to the JCPOA.
This is Biden administration responding to the rocket attacks, so this shouldn't be blown out of proportion in terms of the JCPOA negotiations. It was a simple "structure" - not designed to escalate further. https://t.co/nz8KTip77m
— Shahed Ghoreishi (@ShahedGhoreishi) February 25, 2021
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Reuters foreign policy correspondent Idrees Ali reported that "while the strikes appear to be the first retaliatory moves by the United States for what it says are attacks by Iranian-backed forces, the move was limited in scope and narrowly tailored to try and not lead to an escalatory cycle."
Recognizing such reporting, the U.S.-based Win Without War said in a series of tweets Thursday that "we hope all parties will avoid further military force."
"We cannot escape the realities of how we got here, decades of U.S. war in the Middle East and a continued belief that bombs will somehow bring peace," Win Without War said. "History has shown how utterly failed that mentality is, with a cost of countless lives and massive destruction. It must end."
"And we also know that the current crisis is the direct result of Trump's failed 'maximum pressure campaign,'" the group added. "The only path forward is for President Biden to follow through with his commitment to turn from war towards diplomacy, starting with rejoining the JCPOA."
The New York Times on Thursday evening reported on remarks that Pentagon press secretary John Kirby made to journalists traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin:
The American airstrikes on Thursday "specifically destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militia troops, including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada," Mr. Kirby said.
"This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners," Mr. Kirby said. "The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel."
Kirby added that the move was intended as a response to the rockets but did not aim to escalate hostilities with Iran. As he put it: "We have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."
The strikes came hours after a report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute and USA Today detailing "counterterrorism" operations by the U.S. military in 85 countries since 2018 as part of its "Global War on Terror," published amid calls for an end to endless war.
In a pair of letters to the White House and Congress earlier this month, coalitions of advocacy groups called for an end "forever wars" and the pursuit of a U.S. foreign policy "consistent with the nation's legal, human, and civil rights obligations, and the moral authority that the United States has long claimed on these issues."