President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against Iranian-backed militant groups on Thursday in response to several rocket attacks in Iraq, CNN reports.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced the strikes were launched “at President Biden’s direction.”
"Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al Shuhada," Kirby said. "The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq."
A UK-based monitor group said the attack killed 22 militants and took out a weapons shipment from Iraq to Syria.
The strike came after multiple rocket attacks in Iraq, including one this week in Erbil that killed a foreign civilian contractor and injured a US servicemember and multiple US contractors.
Administration defends strike:
"We're confident in the target we went after," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters. "We know what we hit. We allowed and encouraged the Iraqis to investigate and develop intelligence, and that was very helpful to us in refining the target."
The administration previously suggested they believe Iran was responsible for the attacks in Iraq.
"We have stated before that we will hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans," State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday, adding that "many of these attacks have used Iranian-made, Iranian-supplied weapons."
Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, resurfaced a 2017 tweet by White House press secretary Jen Psaki questioning the legality of the Trump administration’s strikes in Syria.
“Great question,” she wrote.
"This makes President Biden the fifth consecutive US president to order strikes in the Middle East," Rep. Ro Khanna, another House Foreign Affairs Committee member, told CNN. "There is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization. We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate."
"The President should not be taking these actions without seeking explicit authorization instead of relying on broad, outdated" Authorization for Use of Military Force laws, he added. "I spoke against endless war with Trump, and I will speak out against it when we have a Democratic President."