China’s state-run Global Times newspaper mocked President Joe Biden on Friday, quoting his declaration, “America is back,” in a headline about his decision to bomb Syria on Thursday evening.
Biden made the remark in a speech about foreign policy in early February, in which he vowed to limit American military engagement.
“And they know when you speak, you speak for me,” Biden told diplomats at the State Department. “And so — so is the message I want the world to hear today: America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”
On Thursday, 36 days into his presidency, Biden took unilateral action in Syria, ordering what the Pentagon dubbed a “defensive precision strike” on members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a legal wing of the Iraqi armed forces.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement. “Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).”
The named groups are among the most influential members of the PMF, particularly KH, or the Hezbollah Brigades.
The Global Times suggested Biden had undermined his promises to the American people in its coverage of the strikes, in an article it titled with Biden’s words, “America Is Back.” the Communist Party-approved experts quoted in the piece made the case that, under President Donald Trump, the White House preferred to use economic incentives and punishments like sanctions to confront national security threats by starving them of funding. Under Biden, military violence superseded the sanctions policy, they claimed.
“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,” one of the experts said.
The Global Times added that its experts expected Biden to attempt to “push European countries to get involved in Middle Eastern affairs” rather than attempt to unilaterally handle threats to America.
The Chinese government formally condemned the strikes through its Foreign Ministry.
“We call on relevant parties to respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and avoid further complicating the situation in Syria,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters Friday in response to questions about the strike.
China has largely abstained from interference in the Syrian Civil War or other conflicts in the greater Middle East, though it has established a permanent military presence in Djibouti, an African country with close proximity to Yemen. It maintains friendly relations with the government of Iran and, thus, its proxy, dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and with the government of Russia, which has flooded Syria with military assets to defend Assad.
The United States, through at least three presidents, has called for Assad to step down from power and urged a peaceful solution to the Syrian civil war. The majority of its involvement in the country has been to fight the Islamic State, a former proxy of al-Qaeda that once established its “capital” in the Syrian city of Raqqa. American forces, with the aid of Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, liberated Raqqa in 2017.
The airstrikes on Thursday reportedly targeted only PMF-affiliated forces. The PMF fought against the Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq. In 2017, top Pentagon official Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said, “Iraqi militia forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and the [U.S.-led] global coalition also deserve a share of the credit for their sacrifices to achieve this hard-won victory.”
The Pentagon confirmed to Breitbart News that Townsend included the PMF in that praise.
The PMF are intensely anti-American and have refocused much of their efforts to attacking U.S. troops and assets, particularly in Iraq where they are formally part of the military. The attack Biden used to justify his strikes was a bombing of American assets in Iraqi Kurdistan last week, for which a small militia known as the Saraya Awlia al-Dam, or “Guardians of Blood Brigades,” took credit. The group is believed to be part of the PMF. The Agence France-Presse (AFP), citing American and Iraqi officials, described the group as a “smokescreen” for KH and other jihadists in the PMF.
Last week’s bombings accidentally destroyed part of the Chinese consulate in Erbil, Iraq. Wang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, did not mention that detail in his call for an end to American activity against the PMF.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Biden airstrikes killed at least 17 people. PressTV, an Iranian propaganda outlet, claimed only one person died and four others were injured as a result of the strikes.