Emergency Airstrikes on ISIS Immediately Blossom Into Long-term Strategy

A Kurd temple of the Yazidi, many of whom have fled to Mount Sinjar. (Photo: Jan Sefti / Flickr)

A Kurd temple of the Yazidi, many of whom have fled to Mount Sinjar. (Photo: Jan Sefti / Flickr)

“Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq’s human rights minister told Reuters,” reported the New York Times yesterday (Aug. 10, 2014). “Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.”

ISIS obviously needs to be stopped. On Saturday, President Obama said that humanitarian assistance airdrops for those trapped in ISIS, such as the Yazidi who sought refuge on Mount Sinjar, would be an ongoing project. Not only that ― the United States would continue to mount airstrikes against ISIS for months. In the New York Times, Michael Shear and Tim Arango report:

When he announced the airstrikes on Thursday night, Mr. Obama emphasized the immediate goals of protecting Americans in Baghdad and in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, and helping to rescue the Iraqis trapped by ISIS fighters on the mountain.

Two days later the mission had expanded.

In his remarks Saturday morning, he focused more on the need to help Iraqis over the long term, giving them what he called space to develop a government that can fight back against militants. … The president said he would not give a “particular timetable” on the new operations [but] his comments reflected the uncertainty of a military effort that will be re-evaluated in the months ahead.

The president’s remarks, write Shear and Arango

… are likely to raise new questions, especially among those who fear that the mission could slowly pull America back into a more robust involvement in the country.


The open-ended nature of Mr. Obama’s actions presents a tricky political problem for a president who campaigned against what he once called a “dumb war” and repeatedly pressed Republicans to set a date for the departure of American troops from the battlefield.

Officials said:

… said breaking the siege on Mount Sinjar and protecting Americans in Baghdad from advancing ISIS militants would take more time, particularly given the instability of Iraq’s internal politics and the vagaries of protecting and eventually evacuating the stranded Iraqis.

The United States seeks to help stabilize those politics. Shear and Arango continue:

Earlier, Mr. Obama said the length of American involvement would depend on how quickly Iraqi leaders could form a national unity government with meaningful roles for the country’s two main minority groups, Sunnis and Kurds. Without saying so explicitly, American officials have been quietly working to replace Mr. Maliki because they believe that he is incapable of uniting the country to face the militant threat.

Mr. Obama said an inclusive government would give all Iraqis a reason to believe that they were represented, and Iraqi military forces a motive to fight back against the militants. … “The most important timetable that I’m focused on right now is the Iraqi government getting formed and finalized,” he said before boarding Marine One.

One is inclined to believe the president in this instance. It’s well-known that he’s long sought to get Iraq out of the hair of the United States ― and the U.S. out of Iraq’s hair  ― once and for all.