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Joe Biden did not tell Congress about Iran attack for 14 hours: Report

By Sarah May
|
March 27, 2023

In the aftermath of recent strikes by Iranian proxies on coalition sites in Syria, some Republicans have suggested that President Joe Biden purposefully waited roughly 14 hours to inform members of Congress of the attacks that took one American's life and injured several others, as the Daily Mail reports.

According to NBC News congressional correspondent Julie Tsirkin, those GOP lawmakers believe Biden delayed providing the information in order to influence a vote on amendments to a possible repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolutions, which allow the president to initiate military responses under certain conditions.

Thursday attack kills one, injures others

As The Hill reported last week, an American contractor was killed, and several U.S. service members were injured in northeastern Syria as the result of a drone strike near the city of Hasakah.

The intelligence community subsequently indicated its belief that the one-way, unmanned drone was of Iranian origin.

In the wake of the Thursday strike, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revealed that he gave U.S. Central Command the approval to initiate retaliatory strikes “in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)” at the instruction of President Joe Biden.

Though Biden himself commented on the situation during a press conference held as part of an official state visit to Canada, as the Daily Mail noted, it is the timeframe in which information was disseminated with which some Republicans have since taken issue.

Biden timeline questioned

The Republicans who spoke to Tsirkin noted with disapproval the fact that the Thursday attack occurred at 6:38 a.m. Eastern Time, but Congress was not informed until roughly 8:00 p.m. That evening.

Tsirkin noted that Republicans resistant to a bipartisan push to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs have suggested that the Biden administration failed to notify lawmakers earlier simply because the Senate was voting on AUMF-related amendments.

One of those amendments the GOP insiders claim was on the table was spearheaded by Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, which would maintain the president's latitude to “respond rapidly and decisively to threats by the Government of Iran or its proxy forces,” according to the Mail.

Another bone of contention for some Republicans was the fact that Central Commander General Michael Kurilla appeared before a House committee Thursday with full awareness that the strike had occurred but did not mention the situation as part of his testimony.

Explanations offered

Answering their critics who spoke to Tsirkin, administration officials attempted to set the record straight regarding who said what, when and why.

A CENTCOM spokesperson noted that “[p]rior to his posture testimony, General Kurilla was aware of the facts... It would have been inappropriate for him to mention the attack during the hearing given that the families of the killed and wounded had not yet been notified,” as the Mail further noted.

John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman had a slightly different twist on the situation, suggesting that Kurilla's testimony actually came prior to the attack, though that contention appears at odds with the known timeline of events in Syria.

Regardless, according to legislative aides to a Republican as well as a Democrat urging repeal of the AUMF resolutions, the lag between awareness of the attack and Biden's mention of it was unlikely to have been driven by concerns over voting on the matter, with the staffers saying, “Biden responded under the authorities provided to him by Article II of the Constitution, as the administration publicly has taken action against Iranian aggression numerous times in Syria alone over the last year.”

Additional attacks launched

According to ABC News, two additional attacks occurred late Friday at a pair of American facilities in eastern Syria located in the Deir ez-Zor province.

Despite successful shoot-downs of two of the drones used in the first incident, one drone did make it past defenses, but no injuries were sustained in that attack. One American service member was harmed in the second, rocket-involved attack, and was said to be in stable condition.

The series of attacks are part of a larger tally of roughly 80 such incidents that have taken place since early 2021, as ABC News added, and discussing the state of affairs in the region during an interview on CNN, White House spokesperson John Kirby noted, “We're going to work to protect our people and our facilities as best we can. It's a dangerous environment.”

Kirby went on, “We are not seeking a conflict with Iran. We've been very clear with the Iranians and with our partners about how serious the mission that we're doing in Syria is and how we're going to protect that mission,” a reference to the roughly 900 troops currently positioned in eastern Syria to assist Syrian Kurds working to thwart a resurgence of the Islamic State.