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Republicans blast Biden for ‘weak’ response to Iranian attacks in Syria

Republican lawmakers ripped President Biden on Friday over his response to drone and rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militants in Syria that killed a US contractor and wounded six other Americans. 

The Pentagon said Thursday that the 80-year-old president ordered retaliatory airstrikes in response to the deadly drone attack on a coalition base in eastern Syria. The US strikes reportedly killed 11 people, including six confirmed pro-Iran militants and two Syrians.

On Friday, Iranian-backed proxy forces responded to the US airstrikes by launching rockets at a US base in northeast Syria. White House national security spokesman John Kirby called the Iran-backed missiles “completely ineffective” and noted that no US personnel were harmed.

Iranian proxies have carried out drone or rocket attacks against US troops in the Middle East 78 times since the beginning of 2021, according to US Central Command, not counting the strikes on Thursday and Friday. Many Republicans have been left to wonder why Biden hasn’t reacted more forcefully to previous strikes and to the latest attacks.

President Joe Biden speaks during an anniversary event for the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, March 23, 2023.
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General Mark Alexander Milley, 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) criticized Biden’s response as “weak” in a tweet on Friday

“President Biden and his national security team are letting America down,” Graham wrote.

“I fear General Milley and Secretary of Defense Austin are not proving to be up to the task of providing the deterrence America needs to remain safe. However, the ultimate blame for the failing foreign policy and military situation we find ourselves in lies with President Biden,” he continued.

“President Biden owes it to those Americans fighting radical Islam to respond vigorously to any attack on them and their position by Iranian proxies. The weak, uncertain response to the initial attack obviously did not work,” Graham argued.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks during the Palmetto Family Council's Vision 24 national conservative policy forum in North Charleston, South Carolina, US, on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
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“America has only one path available when attacked – respond swiftly and vigorously with overwhelming, punishing force designed to make enemies wary of engaging with the United States. Being strong is the best deterrence against future attacks,” he added.

Graham’s colleague, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), argued Friday that Biden’s retaliatory strikes were too little and too late, claiming that the administration failed to respond to several attacks from Iranian proxies prior to Thursday’s drone strike.

“Indefensible that American life must be lost before Joe Biden acts,” Cotton wrote in a tweet. “Had he responded in force to dozens of earlier Iranian attacks, this tragedy could have been prevented. [Austin] needs to explain why he isn’t doing more to deter Iran.”

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for Texas Representative John Ratcliffe in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.
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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) criticized Biden for failing to enforce sanctions against the Iranian regime and accused the president of following a “doctrine of appeasement.”

“Iranian proxies have attacked US servicemembers nearly 80 times. What has President Biden done about it? Cozied up to Iran in hopes of a fanciful and flawed ‘nuclear agreement,’ & failed to hit Iran’s regime where it hurts, their wallets, by enforcing much-needed sanctions,” Ernst wrote in a tweet Friday.

“The Biden admin’s continued doctrine of appeasement has cost American lives and emboldened our adversaries,” she argued. 

The president said during remarks in Canada on Friday that the US does not “seek conflict with Iran” but is prepared to “protect our people.” 

“That’s exactly what happened last night,” Biden said, referring to the US retaliatory airstrikes . “We’re going to continue to keep up our efforts to counter terrorist threats in the region.”