In the first confirmed military action ordered during his presidency, President Joe Biden authorized the Feb. 25 bombing of what the Pentagon said were “Iranian-backed militia” groups in Syria. The air strikes reportedly were in retaliation for a rocket attack on Erbil, Iraq’s airport on Feb. 1 that killed a Filipino contractor working with the U.S. military coalition and wounded six others, including a National Guard soldier and four American contractors. Iran condemned the U.S. strikes as “illegal and a violation of Syria’s sovereignty” and denied responsibility for rocket attacks on American targets in Iraq. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports at least 22 people died in the U.S. attack.
The Pentagon’s press secretary said the U.S. airstrike was meant to punish the perpetrators of the rocket attack, but not escalate hostilities with Iran, with which Biden has sought to open talks to rejoin the international nuclear agreement that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Some Democratic lawmakers questioned Biden’s decision to launch military action without congressional approval.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with David Swanson, executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator with RootsAction.org. Here, he examines how Biden’s airstrikes could derail planned talks for the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, and continue America’s “endless war” policies.
DAVID SWANSON: Well, I don’t think it was the first missile or bomb to fall from the sky launched by the United States in Syria or Iraq or certainly Afghanistan since Jan. 20. But it was the first to be publicly announced and put out with a press release and a letter to Congress and a letter to the United Nations and numerous comments to the public, including from the president around the idea that he was sending a message to Iran. That this would teach Iran, show Iran, not to mess around. Assuming the intention was to avoid peace and push the world closer to war, it had the desired results. Otherwise, it didn’t. Iran is refusing to negotiate. Iran is headed toward a new government months from now that will have no interest in any negotiations whatsoever. This is a disastrous move in terms of making peace in the world.
What the White House does in its statements is claim “self-defense,” claim compliance with the UN charter because bombing people in a distant nation in order to send a message to a different nation is self-defense. This is outrageous. It justifies any sort of aggressive attack on anyone on ea under the pretense that it’s self-defense. And you can’t find, you know, a single congressmember who will even object to the violation of the UN charter. Or if they do, it’s sort of a footnote after their long spiel about the need for congressional authorization, which is complete nonsense once you mention the existence of the UN charter. You can’t make something legal by authorizing it through Congress.
SCOTT HARRIS: David, I did want to ask you about the Iranian nuclear deal. There was a lot of hope, maybe misguided, but there was a lot of hope when Joe Biden got elected that somehow the U.S. and Iran would reach an agreement to restart or rejoin the international nuclear deal with Iran. This latest attack on what we’re told were Iranian-allied militia groups in Syria, and the back and forth diplomatically between the two countries doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference here in terms of restarting the agreement. What are your concerns going forward about where this may end up?
DAVID SWANSON: Well, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable concern that it may end up in a major war. You know, that the adding of women to the draft registration as a step in feminist progress to give women the right to be forced against their will to go kill and die may be relevant. We may get a bigger war than anybody wants. I mean, this notion that you can do a proportionate targeted surgical retributive strike, tit-for-tat with another nation — well, you don’t control how others around the world interpret what you do. You can’t, you know, control how these things can be an out of hand. I think there is there is every danger that the U.S. government misunderstands the Iranian government — you know, the sanctions, the massive, brutal, deadly punishing illegal under the Geneva conventions sanctions that have not been lifted against Iran.
This is what obsesses the people in Iran and in the region. So you can’t say, well, we’re just trading missile strikes. When you’ve broken promises, when you’ve said you were going to lift sanctions, when you’ve said you were going to rejoin an agreement and you’re not rejoining it, Iran is outraged. Most people there are — and members of the government as well and even worse, the likely next government — are sick and tired of it. And it’s incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it’s a question of not paying enough attention or of actually wanting war.
And I think it’s hard to overestimate the extent to which this has to do with the Saudi relationship, right? You know, the need by the Biden administration to do something good for the brutal dictators of Saudi Arabia on the day when they’re announcing Saudi murdered a Washington Post reporter, you know, a person who “matters” — you know, never mind the thousands and thousands of people in Yemen — but a Washington Post reporter matters. And this should cease. It’s another broken promise, right? Biden said, this relationship with Saudi Arabia would not continue unchanged, but it is.
For more information, visit David Swanson’s site at davidswanson.org, David Swanson’s Talk World Radio at davidswanson.org/tag/