U.S. Launches Airstrikes Against Islamic State Targets Near Baghdad

The United States launched its first airstrikes on Sunday and Monday against Islamic State targets in direct support of Iraqi troops. The attacks, near Sinjar and southwest of Baghdad, were the first since President Barack Obama announced on September 10 an expanded strategy against Islamic State militants. The U.S. military reported the strikes destroyed six ...

JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The United States launched its first airstrikes on Sunday and Monday against Islamic State targets in direct support of Iraqi troops. The attacks, near Sinjar and southwest of Baghdad, were the first since President Barack Obama announced on September 10 an expanded strategy against Islamic State militants. The U.S. military reported the strikes destroyed six Islamic State vehicles and one firing position, in the first attacks to go beyond the United States' initial mission of "protecting our own people and humanitarian missions." On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives will begin debating legislation that would provide the authority, but not the funding, for Obama's plan for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State militants. The House is expected to vote Wednesday on the legislation attached as an amendment to a stopgap spending bill.

Syria

As the U.S. backed efforts ramp up against Islamic State militants, a U.N. human rights commission stressed that President Bashar al-Assad's government "remains responsible for the majority of civilian casualties" in Syria's civil war. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel, noted atrocities committed by the Syrian regime at checkpoints and additionally cited crimes committed by Islamic State militants, emphasizing mass executions. Meanwhile, a Syrian military plane crashed in the northeastern city of Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State militants. It is not clear if the warplane was shot down by Islamic State fighters or if it came down due to technical failure.

The United States launched its first airstrikes on Sunday and Monday against Islamic State targets in direct support of Iraqi troops. The attacks, near Sinjar and southwest of Baghdad, were the first since President Barack Obama announced on September 10 an expanded strategy against Islamic State militants. The U.S. military reported the strikes destroyed six Islamic State vehicles and one firing position, in the first attacks to go beyond the United States’ initial mission of "protecting our own people and humanitarian missions." On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives will begin debating legislation that would provide the authority, but not the funding, for Obama’s plan for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State militants. The House is expected to vote Wednesday on the legislation attached as an amendment to a stopgap spending bill.

Syria

As the U.S. backed efforts ramp up against Islamic State militants, a U.N. human rights commission stressed that President Bashar al-Assad’s government "remains responsible for the majority of civilian casualties" in Syria’s civil war. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel, noted atrocities committed by the Syrian regime at checkpoints and additionally cited crimes committed by Islamic State militants, emphasizing mass executions. Meanwhile, a Syrian military plane crashed in the northeastern city of Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State militants. It is not clear if the warplane was shot down by Islamic State fighters or if it came down due to technical failure.

Headlines

  • An estimated 500 people are feared dead after a boat carrying Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Sudanese migrants was rammed and sunk near Malta last week.
  • Clashes in Yemen’s al-Jawf province between Houthi fighters and government-allied tribesmen have killed 22 people meanwhile Houthi leaders said they had suspended talks with the government.
  • A roadside bomb killed six Egyptian policemen Tuesday in northern Sinai.
  • Iraqi lawmakers have said that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has selected a defense minister, Jaber al-Jabberi, and an interior minister, Riyad Ghareeb.

Arguments and Analysis

Turkey: A Reluctant Partner in the Fight against the Islamic State‘ (Gonul Tol, Middle East Institute)

"Several concerns underlie Turkey’s reluctance to play a frontline role.  In June, ISIS militants raided the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraq city of Mosul and captured 49 Turkish citizens, including the consul general, staff members, and their families. Since then, Turkey’s top priority has been the safe return of the hostages; it is concerned that joining a U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS might endanger the lives of Turkish hostages.

Turkey’s second concern is its ongoing peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response to the growing ISIS threat, the PKK, the Peshmerga, and the People’s Protection Unit (the military arm of the PKK’s Syrian off-shoot Democratic Union Party) established a united Kurdish front. The PKK militants have come to the aid of Peshmerga fighters in the war against ISIS to halt the jihadi group’s advance into the autonomous region of northern Iraq. The People’s Protection Unit was the main force battling ISIS, and it helped thousands of Yazidis escape from the western part of the region as ISIS attacked."

Whoever Saves a Life‘ (Matthieu Aikins, Matter)

"Parked out front was a cherry-red truck with FREIW. FEUERWEHR, shorthand in German for ‘Volunteer Fire Department,’ along the side door in raised letters and, beneath it in Arabic, ‘Aleppo Civil Defense,’ spray painted in black. A well-built truck, donated by the West, it was starting to show its months of use in a war zone, with several bullet holes pocking the door and crazing the windshield. But it still got the job done, speeding them to blast sites.

The members of Civil Defense were attendants to the city’s trauma, one of the few first responders left to care for the civilians caught on the front lines in Syria’s largest city. They evacuated the injured, cleaned up the bodies, and fought fires. But what they were best known for – what they had become famous for in Syria and abroad – were the dramatic rescues, the lives they pulled from under the rubble."

The Radicalization of Syria‘ (Aaron Y. Zelin, per Concordiam)

"Al-Qaida, its branches and sympathizers viewed the 2011 Syrian uprising, which turned into a civil war, as a great opportunity to expand their reach. Of all of the Arab Spring countries, Syria was the most prized because of its religio-historical significance, relative closeness to the West (compared with other battlefields of jihad) and proximity to Israel with its jihadist coveted city of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque. What al-Qaida viewed as a promise, though, has turned into a nightmare because of its now existential battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for supremacy of the global jihadist movement."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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