President Joe Biden arrives at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, United States on February 26, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Joe Biden told Congress on Saturday that the air strikes he ordered this week in Syria were in line with the U.S. right to self-defense, as members of his own party demanded more transparency about why military action was taken without the approval of the Congress were taken.
“The United States has taken this action in accordance with the United States’ right of self-defense contained in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter,” wrote Biden in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Patrick Leahy.
Biden on Thursday ordered air strikes against facilities in eastern Syria that Iranian-backed militias are using, according to the Pentagon. The Department of Defense said several facilities at a border checkpoint were destroyed and there were casualties, but did not provide additional information.
These strikes were in response to a February 15 attack in which missiles struck Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq, where a coalition military base is located. The attack killed a civilian contractor from the US-led military coalition and injured several others, including an American service member.
“I have led this military operation to protect and defend our personnel and partners from these attacks and future such attacks,” Biden wrote in his letter on Saturday.
The letter comes after some Senate Democrats pushed back over the strikes against Biden, asking him to provide information on why military action was taken without the approval of Congress. According to the resolution of the armed forces, presidents must inform Congress within 48 hours of taking military action. In the letter, Biden cited his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.
“I conducted this military action consistent with my responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States at home and abroad and to advance the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, under and as my constitutional authority to conduct United States external relations Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, ”wrote Biden.
The Pentagon was briefing Congress leaders ahead of the military strikes, according to a spokesman for the National Security Council. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi was also notified ahead of the strike, according to a Democratic adviser.
Iran condemned the US air strikes on Saturday and declined responsibility for the rocket strikes on US targets. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the US strikes were “illegal and a violation of Syrian sovereignty,” according to Iranian state media reports.
– CNBC’s Christian Nunley and Reuters contributed to this report.