The U.S. is back in an active military role in Iraq. President Obama authorized the military to carry out limited US air strikes in Iraq on Thursday, and on Friday, August 8th, the U.S. Air Force bombed an ISIS artillery placement outside the Kurdish city of Erbil.
The US air strike was carried out by two FA-18 Hornet launched from the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier operating in the Gulf. The operation began at 1.45 pm local time (6.45 am ET). Intelligence reports indicate the target was eliminated.
Statements from President Obama on the air strikes on ISIS
President Obama had been under a lot of political pressure to authorize a more active role for the U.S. military in Iraq given the inability of the Iraqi government to contain ISIS, but he was very wary of getting the U.S. involved in an active military operation again. He apparently decided the situation was serious to warrant becoming actively involved.
In his speech on Thursday, Obama emphasized he was authorizing military strikes for humanitarian reasons. In answer to a question from a Yazidi woman who asked why no one was coming to help as ISIS slaughterted her family, Obama said, “Well, today, America is coming to help.”
He also emphasized that this was a limited action and the U.S. was not getting any more involved. “As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,”
“When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action,” Obama continued. “That’s my responsibility as commander in chief.”
Analysts noted that Obama’s orders to the military were broad and included permission to take action against ISIS forces threatening either the thousands of Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar, or the cities of Erbil and Baghdad, where US “military advisers” are based.
Public opposes re-engagement in Iraq
Until now, Obama has steadfastly refused to become “re-engaged” in Iraq, with his position aligning closely with the opinions of most Americans. However, the humanitarian crisis involving the slaughter of tens of thousands of Yazidis by the militant Sunnis of ISIS and the potential danger to U.S. personnel in Northern Iraq convinced him he had to take a more active role in this specific instance.
Political analysts say that it’s unlikely Obama will authorize any further scaling up of U.S. military action.
Humanitarian airdrop for Yazidis
U.S. military sources say that the humanitarian airdrop to resupply the several thousand Yazidis who retreated up a mountain to escape from ISIS was completed by Friday morning. Three American aircraft delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals during the mission, and were only at a low altitude over the drop area for around 15 minutes.