The strikes occurred around 6 pm Eastern time and had been planned over several days, according to the Wall Street Journal. Biden made the decision this morning, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Thursday.

“I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” the secretary said, noting he advised Biden to launch the strikes. “We’re confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants” who attacked US troops last week.

Some experts are already applauding the president’s decision.

“This was a golden move by the Biden administration,” said Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shia militias at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, because it let Tehran know the new American team is willing to strike Iranian-linked targets wherever they operate throughout the Middle East. “This is the administration saying ‘we mean business.’”

It was also a way of sending that message without angering Iraq, Smyth added, which bristled at US airstrikes on Iranian proxies in Iraq during the Trump administration, seeing them as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Targeting a weapons facility in Syria avoids that problem.

Others, like the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis, believe the decision was unnecessarily “provocative and dangerous.”

“Is this what ‘‘America is Back’ is supposed to mean?” she asked rhetorically.

The question now is what the retaliatory attack might mean for the Biden administration’s effort to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. Washington agreed to join an informal meeting with Iran brokered by the European Union, but Tehran said it was still “considering” the offer. It’s possible the regime might balk at future talks after Biden’s action.

Even so, it seems Biden calculated that protecting US troops operating in the Middle East from attacks by Iranian proxies takes priority over that diplomatic process. In so doing, he became the latest president to order a military operation in the Middle East.

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