President Obama appealed for expanded U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and neighboring Syria to degrade and destroy the threat posed by Islamic State militants and asked Americans to support his leadership during his State of the Union speech last night.
Sounding decisive and firm, Obama outlined the reasons the U.S. should continue its air assault against Islamic State, previously known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant), as regional powers in Damascus and Baghdad lack the political will and military capability to defeat the Islamic terrorist group that has removed major sections of the Iraq-Syria border, threatened religious minorities with genocide, and seized territory across northern Iraq.
Obama explained that ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, even though ISIL militants have not carried out attacks against major American targets except for the beheading of 2 captured American journalists during the last month that was aired on social media and resulted in stronger U.S. poll support for military campaigns against Islamic State targets.
The Iraqi military has struggled to combat Islamic State’s violence and seizure of strategic locations across northern and eastern Iraq, including the capture of Mosul in June, overtaking the Mosul Damn in August, and grabbing oilfields across Iraq.
The United States has responded by intervening militarily in Iraq through more than 150 successful airstrikes, pushing back Islamic State militants in the largely Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.
“These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have also helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Obama said.
Obama made it clear that future military campaigns in the region will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.
“This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground” Obama said.
A new Iraqi government was officially sworn in on September 8th after Iraq Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite, stepped down last month amid allegations of corruption and mistreating Sunni Iraqis.
But the damage has already been done and many Iraqi Sunnis remain distrustful of the politics in Baghdad. Sunnis have asked for a more inclusive government that will represent the needs of Iraq’s discontent Sunni population as Sunni Islamic State fighters seek to gain control over Iraq through brutal force while waging another war in neighboring Syria against President Assad’s Alawite government that has strong support in Shiite Iran.
Obama said that America will be joined by a coalition of partners as it seeks to stop Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria.
“Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity” Obama stated.
Obama pointed out that Secretary Kerry would also be traveling across the Middle East to gain more Arab support and enlist partners in the fight to push out the terrorists from their lands.