Thursday, August 7, 2014

Obama Authorizes Limited Airstrikes Against ISIS

The New York Times reports:
President Obama on Thursday announced that he had authorized targeted American airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, scrambling to avert the fall of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and returning the United States to a significant battlefield role in Iraq for the first time since the last American soldier left the country at the end of 2011.

Speaking at the White House on Thursday night, Mr. Obama also said that American military aircraft had dropped food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped on a barren mountain range in northwestern Iraq, having fled the militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who threaten them with what Mr. Obama called “genocide.”

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help,” Mr. Obama said in a televised statement delivered from the State Dining Room. “Well, today America is coming to help.”

The president insisted the twin military operations did not amount to a full-scale re-engagement in Iraq. But the relentless advance of the militants, whom he described as “barbaric,” has put them within a 30-minute drive of Erbil, raising an immediate danger for the American diplomats, military advisers and other citizens who are based there.
The authors go on to question Obama intervening to save Christians, but not Muslims in Syria or Iraq. They write:
The decision could also open Mr. Obama to charges that he is willing to use American military might to protect Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities but not to prevent the slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims, either in Iraq or neighboring Syria.
First, and foremost, so what? Second, Obama is not authorizing significant military action, and he is only (reluctantly) providing humanitarian aid. Thus, by itself, the "assistance" being provided will only delay the inevitable. Third, not all of the refugees trapped are Christian. Fourth, if there are airstrikes, they will be to prevent ISIS from taking Erbil, the Kurdish capital, where there is presently a significant U.S. presence, including a CIA station. Moreover, the Kurds are not Christians, but they are one of the most significant U.S. allies in the Middle-East.

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