‘America is back’ with airstrikes on Iran-backed militia in Syria
Published: Feb 26, 2021 12:29 PM

File photo:Xinhua

In its first military action, the Biden administration has ordered airstrikes against an Iran-backed militia in Syria, which Chinese experts believe is an obvious move by the US to target Iran and send a clear signal to the outside world that "America is back."

"At President Biden's direction, US military forces earlier this evening (Thursday) conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria. These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement. 

The attacks came days after militias launched rockets at US forces in Iraq as tensions between the US and Iran continue to simmer. 

Yin Gang, a research fellow with the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times on Friday that although the attacks aimed at facilities in Syria, the target was Iran, and the move could be seen as the Democrat-led government's reverse of the Iran policies implemented by former president Donald Trump.

"During the Trump era, the US tended to use economic sanctions against Iran and did not politically engage with Iran. Nonetheless, the pro-establishment Democratic government wants to resume the Iran nuclear deal, but it is telling Iran not to take action in Syria, as they are two different issues," said Yin, adding that the Biden administration is not expected to let Iran succeed.

The Biden administration is trying to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was scrapped by Trump, but the efforts reportedly met a cold response from Iran.

An anonymous expert on international relations told the Global Times Friday that unlike the Trump era, the US under Biden will not take a compromising stance toward Iran and Syria as well as Russia's presence in the Middle East. 

With the airstrikes, the US hopes other Arab countries that are discontent with the Iranian and Syrian governments should instate clear policies and coordinate to push European countries to get involved in Middle Eastern affairs, the anonymous expert said.

The expert believes Biden, who favors multilateralism, will not fight alone but will unite US allies, especially Europeans, and it remains to be seen whether the US will bring more European, especially NATO countries, into the Middle East.

Biden made the first phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 17. The White House later said they discussed, among other issues, the need for "continued close consultation" on Iran. 

As Israel has always viewed Iran as a threat, Yin from CASS noted that it could not be excluded that the latest US airstrikes are a result of Netanyahu's lobbying.