Last night President Obama announced that he was authorizing targeted airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq. The goal, he said, was to protect American personnel who are stationed there and to provide vital humanitarian aid to communities that have been threatened with violence and genocide. Here’s what you need to know.
Who would be targeted in these airstrikes?
The main target would be ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It’s a renegade group that began life as an offshoot of Al Qaeda, but whose use of systemic violence against citizens proved so extreme that Al Qaeda actually disavowed any connection.
ISIS had been fighting the Assad regime in Syria before they began their assault in Iraq. In just a few days this June, they took control of a large swath of Northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. Thanks to support from former Saddam Hussein loyalists and other Sunni groups, they’ve been able to hold that territory and, in some case, to continue their advance.
Why are we getting involved?
The mission seems to be two-fold.
1. To safeguard US soldiers and diplomats. When ISIS first began taking territory in Iraq, the Obama administration sent several hundred military advisers to assist the Iraqi government. Some of those advisers are stationed in a city called Erbil, which is also home to a US consulate. ISIS is now within striking distance of Erbil, and President Obama said that if fighters advance on the city, they’ll be targeted.
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