McConnell asserts Biden’s ‘clear authority’ for Iran airstrikes, says president should do more to deter terror

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Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Thursday morning that President Biden has ‘clear authority’ to continue carrying out airstrikes in the Middle East and urged the president to do more to deter attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. 

‘The Constitution of the United States, the consensus of our nation’s founders and the weight of exhaustive historical precedent gives the president the clear authority to use military force when American lives and interests are under attack,’ McConnell said. ‘The commander in chief does not lack authority. Rather, he is failing to sufficiently exercise the authority that he has right now.’

Despite military responses and warnings in Iraq and Syria, U.S. troops are still being targeted. According to the Washington Institute, a think tank focused on foreign policy in the Middle East, Iranian proxies have attacked U.S. forces 18 times in Syria and 10 times in Iraq since Jan. 4. 

The orchestrated attacks appear to be part of Iran’s response to Israel’s war in Gaza after its ally, Hamas, attacked Israel on Oct. 7. 

‘When President Biden took office, Senate Republicans warned him not to go soft on Iran,’ McConnell said. ‘We urged him not to abandon maximum pressure, not to obsess over restoring a failed nuclear deal, and not to ignore Iran’s relentless, relentless campaign of terror. But the president failed to hear this advice.’

‘Instead, his administration slipped through glaring indications that Iran backed terror was actually reaching a tipping point. So today, America and our allies face an adversary profoundly undeterred,’ he said.

McConnell tallied that Iran’s proxies are responsible for more than 150 attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 7.

‘We have yet to see signs that the administration understands how to compel Iran and its proxies to stop even with the world’s strongest military at the ready,’ he said. ‘The commander in chief has failed to deter Iran and its proxies. Instead, a figure of escalation has only invited more aggression from Tehran to Moscow to Beijing.’

Earlier this month, Biden received backlash from some House Democrats for striking Houthi positions – a Yemen-based Islamist militant group – without congressional approval. Biden said the airstrikes were in response to Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea. 

‘Mr. President, they are profoundly mistaken,’ McConnell said of dissenting voices who have criticized the airstrikes. ‘Exercising the right to defend against imminent threats to our nation and service members is a central responsibility of the commander in chief.’

The U.S. carried out a ‘self-defense’ strike in Yemen on Wednesday morning, targeting and destroying two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were preparing to launch, aimed at commercial ships in the southern Red Sea, U.S. officials said. 

U.S. forces targeted three facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group and other Iran-linked groups, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. 

The Kataib Hezbollah headquarters was targeted, along with storage and training locations for rocket, missile and one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities, U.S. Central Command said.

The strikes were in response to the Iran proxy group Kataib Hezbollah’s massive ballistic missile attack on al-Asad air base on Saturday, and an attack on al-Asad on Tuesday, a U.S. defense official told Fox News. The group fired 17 ballistic missiles and rockets at the base, where the majority of the 2,500 troops in Iraq are stationed.

On Saturday, the U.S. Army’s Patriot missile defense system fired 15 missiles to intercept the ballistic missiles and rockets, but two got through, damaging the base and resulting in four U.S. service members being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. 

All have returned to duty. 

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been launching attacks against southern Israel and ships in the Red Sea since soon after Israel’s war with Hamas began in October.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano and Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report. 

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