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    President Barack Obama's administration claims it has the legal right to attack militants in Syria. (Photo: Reuters) | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 September 2014

The United States says it's defending Iraq by attacking Syrian strongholds of the Islamic State group.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power unveiled Washington's legal justification for conducting military operations in Syria without permission from Damascus or the U.N.

The letter from Power was addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and claimed the United States is acting in the defense of Iraq, which has been invaded by the Islamic State (I.S.) group. The letter asserts Iraq has a right to self defense against I.S., and has the right to request assistance from the United States.

It then claims that since the government in Damascus has failed to eliminate I.S. safe havens in Syria, the United States has the right to intervene.

“The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself,” the New York Times quotes the letter as stating.

“Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing ISIL threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders,” it said. ISIL is an abbreviation of I.S.'s former name.

The letter further argued the United States has a right to defend itself from the militant group Khorasan, which has been accused of plotting attacks on Western nations from Syria.

“ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria are a threat not only to Iraq but also to many other countries, including the United States and our partners in the region and beyond,” Power’s letter claimed.

The letter is a sea-change from earlier justifications for U.S. airstrikes against I.S. These earlier justifications claimed the United States could fight back against I.S. to defend its own personnel in Iraq.

However, many of Washington's troops in Iraq were moved to the country's war-torn torn specifically to fight I.S.

The government in Damascus has stated it's willing to cooperate with the United States to fight I.S., but in the past has urged Washington to respect Syria's sovereignty.

Among the demands made earlier this year was a call for the United States to request permission from Damascus before carrying out military operations. Obama has openly rejected this, prompting a wave of criticism from Syrian allies Russia and Iran.

“Any actions executed without ... UN Security Council approval will be taken as an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law,” spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry warned earlier this month.

China has also urged for Syria's sovereignty to be respected.

However, earlier today Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued comments seemingly softening his view on unauthorized airstrikes on Syrian soil, according to state broadcaster SANA.

"The Syrian Arab Republic says it stands with any international effort to fight terrorism, no matter what a group is called — whether Daesh or Nusra Front or something else," reported SANA.

See also: Obama´s Wars

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