President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Sep 10) vowed to strike the Islamic State in Syria and to expand operations in Iraq, seizing command of an international coalition to destroy the militants. Obama, who wants history to remember him as the president who ended a decade of foreign wars, launched a major new escalation in the Middle East, also pledging to bolster Iraqi forces and to increase military assistance to Syria’s opposition.
In a prime-time televised address, Obama said that IS, which has beheaded two US journalists and seized a swathe of land in Iraq and Syria, was a uniquely brutal group even by the blood-soaked standards of the Middle East. “Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama said, steeling his nation for a new foreign war. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the self-declared Islamic State.
“This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Seeking to preserve his doctrine of replacing strength-sapping wars with easily bogged down land armies, with limited but lethal arms length air warfare, Obama compared the new conflict to anti-terror operations in Somalia and Yemen. But he made clear in the somber, 14 minute address, that the new front against terrorism will not replicate the exhausting ground wars of the last decade. “I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Obama said. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” US operations in Somalia and Yemen have largely used drone strikes and air raids, though US special forces did stage a raid in Somalia last year, which failed to snare its target a prominent Islamic militant.
US officials declined to say when air strikes would start in Syria, or which particular IS targets would be in the crossfire. “We are not to going telegraph our punches,” one senior official said on condition of anonymity. The official also said that Obama would loosen the previous criteria for attacks on IS forces in Iraq, which were stipulated on the need to safeguard US diplomatic personnel and avert humanitarian tragedies. “If there is an IS target in Iraq that we need to hit, we will hit it,” the official said.
The president also made clear that the burgeoning challenge of IS, which has carved out a haven in Iraq and Syria that has made national borders obsolete, had made him change his mind about arming Syrian opposition forces. He called on Congress to swiftly authorise an operation to train and equip moderate Syrian fighters, and officials. Saudi King Abdullah, to whom Obama spoke earlier on Wednesday, had promised to support the effort, officials said. -channelnewsasia