President Obama took the next step toward American intervention in the current fighting in Iraq by announced limited and targeted air strikes against ISIS, citing the potential of genocide against Christians and Yazidi religious minorities and danger to American troops in the region, according to a Thursday story in the Washington Examiner. American aircraft are already starting an airlift operation to assist Yazidi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. Stories in local media that American airstrikes have already begun have been denied by Pentagon officials.
The announcement suggests that the president’s strategy of disengaging from Iraq has failed and that the United States is desperately trying to find ways to prevent an ISIS takeover of the region. ISIS, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, has grabbed considerable territory in Iraq and Syria and have already declared that it has established a caliphate. It represents a grave threat to peace and stability. It has scored considerable military successes against Iraqi government military forces and, more recently, Kurdish militia.
President Obama had entered office vowing to end American military operations in Iraq. At the time, thanks to the “surge” conducted during the past two years of the George W. Bush administration, some form of peace and stability had been restored in the troubled country which had been invaded in 2003 by an American led coalition to overthrow the former Saddam Hussein regime. Years of grinding insurgency had sapped American will to continue the intervention and is one of the reasons Obama was first elected in 2008.
President Obama made a crucial mistake by not effected a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that would have left a 10,000 person force behind to train the Iraqi military and to conduct counter insurgency operations against threats like ISIS. Now the United States is scrambling to reverse the situation before it turns into a full scale disaster. But many are already calling the new air strikes, whenever they occur, too little, too late.