After three days of airstrikes against Shia groups allied with the Syrian government, some members of Congress are taking aim at the White House. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called for rethinking American troop presence in the Middle East. Republicans capitalized on the fighting to call for an end of nuclear talks with Iran.
On Tuesday, US Central Command announced it had carried out airstrikes near Deir el-Zour, Syria, targeting Iranian-backed militias. Tehran denies any ties to the groups the US is fighting in Syria. On Wednesday, three American soldiers were injured in attacks on their base and an oil field controlled by the US. CENTCOM responded with helicopter strikes on the alleged attackers.
In response to the rapid escalation in fighting over three days, some members of Congress are critical of President Joe Biden’s decisions. While Sen. Murphy approved of Biden’s actions this week, he said they promoted a review of US foreign policy in the Middle East. "It is past time for a rethink about the wisdom of having so many Americans so thinly spread across the region," he said.
Murphy additionally questioned Biden’s authority to wage war in Syria. "I remain concerned about any decision to undertake unauthorized military action when the Constitution and the War Powers Act require the President to come to Congress to obtain that authority," the Senator wrote in a statement.
Across the aisle, Republicans viewed the fighting as an opportunity to throw cold water on a potential agreement that would see Washington and Tehran return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal. Rep. Michael McCaul tweeted, "These attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. servicemembers show why we CANNOT cut a bad nuclear deal with Iran. The Biden administration must walk away from this bad deal that will fuel Iran’s terrorist attacks on US soldiers and civilians."
The Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder claimed the fighting in Syria would not impact talks to save the nuclear deal. "We will defend our people no matter where they’re attacked or when they’re attacked, so the two really are not interrelated," he said.
Iran did not mention the nuclear deal in its response to the US strikes but called the bombing a terrorist act against the Syrian people. "American army against the Syrian people as a terrorist act against the popular groups and fighters against the occupation and denied any affiliation of them to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said to Newsweek.