The United States launched air strikes against Iranian militias in eastern Syria on Thursday. As far as is known, it is the first US military operation led by incoming Commander in Chief Joe Biden. But American expert Sarah Wagner clarifies that this is not a departure from previous US foreign policy.
SRF News: What is the aim of these airstrikes in Syria?
Sarah Wagner: According to the Biden administration, the air strikes were a response to the ongoing attacks and ongoing threats against the United States and its allies in Iraq. In mid-February, there was an attack in northern Iraq in which a number of Americans were injured. A civilian contractor for the International Military Coalition was killed.
So a reaction to the attacks in Iraq. Why did the United States not respond in Iraq?
The United States has deliberately chosen a destination on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Because they wanted to avoid the attack becoming a problem for the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is an important partner of the United States in the war against ISIS. The goal here was to prevent such airstrikes from exerting internal political pressure on the Iraqi government. Because that would have caused a stir in Iraq as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. This situation appears to have already been discussed between the Iraqi prime minister and President Biden on Tuesday.
What message is Joe Biden sending to Iran?
There are several messages: Biden is trying to show that attacks on US forces in the region will not continue without consequences. It indicates to Iran that responsibility for attacks like the one in Iraq is attributed particularly to Iran – even if these attacks were carried out by so-called proxy militias.
The United States indicates that it is also attributing attacks by proxy militias specifically to Iran.
It is also a reaction to Iran’s attempt to expand its position in Syria and to recruit more people for new militias. Some observers also estimate that it was a general message to Iran that it did not want to enter negotiations and talks on the nuclear deal from a position of weakness.
Under Donald Trump, the United States wanted to bid farewell to its role as “global policeman”. Are you seeing a departure from this strategy now?
We must not forget that these attacks also occurred during the era of President Trump. In 2017, for example, the so-called “mother of all bombs” against ISIS was toppled in Afghanistan. Air strikes have also occurred in Syria under Trump. In addition to the killing of the Iranian general Soleimani last year. Such military interventions in the form of limited air strikes have been and will remain part of the foreign policy of the United States.
The Biden government appears to be more considerate of local partners.
One slight difference: The Biden government appears to be more considerate of its local partners. Such actions are being discussed with the Allies, as in this case with the Iraqi government. If, according to the United States, their security or forces on the ground are at risk, they will also respond militarily. This has been the case until now under every president, whether Republican or Democrat.
Interviewed by Claudia Weber.