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Biden 'Revenge' Bombing of Syria 'Violates International Law': Legal Scholar

"The use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible."

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to speak alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a visit to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on February 10, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to speak alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a visit to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on February 10, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

A Notre Dame Law School professor is among the legal experts who condemned U.S. President Joe Biden's bombing of Syria Thursday as a clear violation of international law.

"The United Nations charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible," Mary Ellen O'Connell, a research professor of International Dispute Resolution at the school's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, told The Associated Press. "None of those elements is met in the Syria strike."

Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes on facilities in Syria purportedly used by Iranian-backed militia groups, an act of military aggression that "killed 22 people after hitting three trucks loaded with munitions near the border town of Abu Kamal," The Guardian reported Friday. Pentagon officials said the airstrikes were in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops.

The president's bombing of Syria—described as "provocative and dangerous" by Phyllis Bennis, a foreign policy expert at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank—was swiftly condemned by progressives, as Common Dreams reported Thursday night.

"It's a disgrace that President Biden managed just 35 days before bombing the Middle East," Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition said in a statement released Friday. "He becomes the latest in a long line of U.S. presidents to treat the Middle East as a bombing ground. Decades of U.S. intervention in the region are cast-iron proof that bombing raids do nothing to bring about peace."

Following Biden's authorization of the airstrikes, a 2017 tweet resurfaced in which now-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki questioned the legality of bombing Syria. 

"What is the legal authority for strikes?" Psaki asked nearly four years ago, during the presidency of Donald Trump. "Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country." Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Thursday called it a "great question."

Also citing Psaki's past comment, journalist Glenn Greenwald recommended that someone in the White House press corps ask the press secretary directly to account for her 2017 remarks in the context of Thursday's bombing.

"Someone should ask [Psaki] her own question verbatim about Biden's Syria bombing at [Friday's] briefing," said Greenwald, noting that "while the context of her tweet was Trump's bombing of Syrian forces, the question still applies."

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