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Airstrikes by U.S. and Allies Hit ISIS Targets in Syria

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The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.

American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State. American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.

The strikes are a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State and open up a risky new stage of the American military campaign. Until now, the administration had bombed Islamic State targets only in Iraq, and had suggested it would be weeks if not months before the start of a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.


Fighters for the Islamic State during a parade in June in Raqqa, Syria. The United States and allies struck targets in militant-controlled territory early Tuesday. Credit Raqqa Media Center, via Associated Press

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes, American officials said, although the Arab governments were not expected to announce their participation until later Tuesday. The new coalition’s makeup is significant because the United States was able to recruit Sunni governments to take action against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. The operation also unites the squabbling states of the Persian Gulf.

The strikes came less than two weeks after Mr. Obama announced in an address to the nation that he was authorizing an expansion of the military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Unlike American strikes in Iraq over the past month, which have been small-bore bombings of mostly individual Islamic State targets — patrol boats and trucks — the salvo on Tuesday in Syria was the beginning of what was expected to be a sustained, hourslong bombardment at targets in the militant headquarters in Raqqa and on the border.

The strikes began after years of debate within the Obama administration about whether the United States should intervene militarily or should avoid another entanglement in a complex war in the Middle East. But the Islamic State controls a broad swath of land across both Iraq and Syria.

Defense officials said the goal of the air campaign was to deprive the Islamic State of the safe havens it enjoys in Syria. The administration’s ultimate goal, as set forth in the address Mr. Obama delivered on Sept. 10, is to recruit a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, even as Mr. Obama warned that “eradicating a cancer” like the Islamic State was a long-term challenge that would put some American troops at risk.

American warplanes had been conducting surveillance flights over Syria for more than a month in anticipation of airstrikes, but it had been unclear just how much intelligence the Pentagon had managed to gather about the movements of the Sunni militant group in Syria. Unlike Iraq, whose airspace is controlled by the United States, Syria has its own aerial defense system, so American planes have had to rely on sometimes jamming the country’s defenses when crossing into Syria.

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The strikes in Syria occurred without the approval of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whose government, unlike Iraq, did not ask the United States for help against the Sunni militant group. Mr. Obama has repeatedly called on Mr. Assad to step down because of chemical weapons attacks and violence against his own people, and defense officials said Mr. Assad had not been told in advance of the strikes.

But administration officials acknowledge that American efforts to roll back the Sunni militant group in Syria cannot help but aid Mr. Assad, whose government is also a target of the Islamic State.

The United Arab Emirates announced three weeks ago that it was willing to participate in the campaign against the Islamic State, and administration officials have also said they expect the Iraqi military to take part in strikes both in Iraq and Syria. If both nations are in fact participants, the strikes on Tuesday could mark a rare instance when the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military has cooperated in a military operation with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

Combined with a French airstrike last week on a logistics depot held by Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, the allied participation in the strikes allows Mr. Obama to make the case that his plan to target the Islamic State has international cooperation.

In addition, Saudi Arabia recently agreed to a training facility for moderate members of the Syrian opposition, whom the United States hopes to train, equip and send back to Syria to fight both Mr. Assad and Islamic State militants.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama is expected to speak of the international coalition in an address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Graphic: How ISIS Works

In his Sept. 10 speech to the nation, Mr. Obama drew a distinction between the military action he was ordering and the two wars begun by his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. He likened this campaign to the selective airstrikes that the United States has carried out for years against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, few of which have been made public.

The airstrikes in Syria, so far, come without the benefit of a large ground force to capitalize on gains they make. While some Syrian opposition groups fighting the Islamic State militants may be able to move into a few cleared areas, administration officials acknowledged on Monday that it was doubtful that the Free Syrian Army, the opposition group most preferred by the United States, would be able to take control of major sections of Islamic State territory, at least not until it has been better trained — which will take place over the next year.

That could leave the forces of Mr. Assad in perhaps the best position to take advantage of any American bombardment. An administration official on Monday acknowledged that that was a worry, but said, “We don’t plan to make it easy for Assad to reclaim territory.” He declined to say what methods the United States would use to prevent the Syrian leader from capitalizing on the American aerial bombardment.

Although the full scope of the airstrikes was not immediately clear, they followed an urgent appeal from Hadi al-Bahra, the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, for American military action. He said the United States needed to act quickly to stop militants from the Islamic State from pressing their attack against the Kurdish communities near the Syrian border town of Ayn-al-Arab, as it is known by Arabs, or Kobani, as it is called by the Kurds.

And Representative Eliot L. Engel, a New York Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement urging “targeted American airstrikes” to protect the Syrian Kurds and prevent a “potential massacre.”

Obama administration officials asserted that they were having success building an international coalition to confront the Islamic State, but Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said on Monday that France would limit its military operations to Iraq.

“The French president has said we do not have intention to do the same in Syria, I mean by air,” Mr. Fabius said in an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, adding that France would support the moderate Syrian opposition.

“I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, using an alternate name for the Islamic State.

“Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time,” Admiral Kirby said in a statement Monday night in Washington. “The decision to conduct these strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate.”

NY Times


17 Comments on "Airstrikes by U.S. and Allies Hit ISIS Targets in Syria"

  1. Davy on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 7:10 am 

    Like G-man says just plugging a gopher hole. It will succeed in driving ISIL from conventional openness. I guess we learned from the trillion we dropped in Afghanistan that safe havens are unbeatable. Yet, we also learned that without boots on the ground airstrikes have limited success. This may be the prelude to increased use of boots on the ground. I suspect this air campaign includes SF’s from the major powers involved and covert work of the Arabs. The best that the current situation can achieve is containment of the conventional threat of ISIL. We will never control the asymmetric element until the Sunni tribes are bribed away from the ISIL control. This whole affair is the last gasp effort of BAU at control. Time is on the side of ISIL and the Taliban. In the descent it is the primitives that excel. The technical, complex, and distant will wither. It is OK for me because I need a few more years of prepping. I shake my head with the destruction and loss of life but what is new in the cursed ME. MIC is happy and licking their lips.

  2. rockman on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 7:58 am 

    “He likened this campaign to the selective airstrikes that the United States has carried out for years against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia”. Yep…and look how well that turned out. Both countries are models of peace and democracy. LOL. Should have tossed in Libya while he was at it.

    Makes for great headlines…for a few days. Shows the world what the US is really made of. “Containing ISIS”..yep. Hopefully they’ll do a better job then they did containing Hitler.

  3. Plantagenet on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 9:52 am 

    Obama’s whack-a-Muslim strategy has the US bombing in Afghanistan Iraq Syria Yemen Nigeria Somalia Sudan etc. No word yet about when Obama will go to the UN for permission to attack all these foreign countries.

  4. Dave Thompson on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 9:56 am 

    Killing and maiming people, destroying peoples lives and livelihood, all in the name of peace.

  5. dmg102 on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 9:59 am 

    Rockman, Someone recently used the terms Slip and Sleeve versus Perk and Plug yesterday in reference to alternative fracking procedures. They didn’t know the specifics between these these two types of fracking designs, I thought you might be able to shed some light on this subject.

  6. Plantagenet on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 10:42 am 

    Obama’s strategy has an elegant simplicity. Using predator missiles armed with 1000 lb bombs, the US will blow up all the bad Muslims, leaving behind the good Muslims.

  7. JuanP on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 11:06 am 

    I’d rather we stopped this, but this morning I read polls indicating that 9 out of 10 Americans consider ISIS a US national security threat. I am amazed at how easy it is to convince the American people to get into another war. Just chop a couple of white American heads, rinse and repeat on the MSM for a few days, and off to support war the American public goes again. The same goes for all our allies, of course.
    I couldn’t care less about ISIS, they are completely insignificant to the big picture. Nothing more than another manufactured threat to scare the masses into submission, so they can get away with more wars and money.
    My congratulations to the MIC, US government, and MSM on a perfectly executed propaganda campaign.
    The main reason we are screwing with Syria is because they opposed the Quatari pipeline and decided to go with the Iran-Iraq-Syria one instead.

  8. Northwest Resident on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 11:35 am 

    A cornered, wounded and starving beast is likely to lash out at any and all perceived threats — without logic, without emotion, without a sense of guilt. From the beast’s point of view, it is all about survival, and there is nothing and nobody that will not be sacrificed or smashed to ensure the beast’s survival. America and “the West” is that beast. Pressures are mounting, survival is not a guarantee, ISIS is threatening critical oil supplies — the very source of “nutrition” that the beast MUST have to survive. America is not doing anything that any other dominant nation/tribe throughout history has done as their power and strength ebbed away. That doesn’t make it right and it most definitely is not a pleasant reality, but unpleasant realities is where we’re all headed anyway, so get used to it.

  9. Davy on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 11:55 am 

    Juan, I am curious if a Kurd would agree with your comment. It is like attorneys. They suck until you need them.

  10. longtimber on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 12:09 pm 

    The Biggest threat to Human existence is Poverty. Each Cruse missile is how much? What’s more evil – JP Morgan Credit Default Swaps or pissed off desert tribes.

  11. JuanP on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 1:01 pm 

    Davy, There is no doubt the Kurds have benefitted from our divide and conquer policies. They are the main beneficiaries in these countries. I like the Kurds, but I am against the US government spending one penny of my money on helping them. I wish them the best in their fight for independence and that’s it. I want my money to be spent in the USA.
    As far as Isis is concerned, I have reached the conclusion that it includes many guerrillas trained, financed, and equipped by Turkey, Israel, and Qatar with the goal of removing Assad mixed with Iraqui Sunni forces. I find it hard to believe that the CIA and Mossad are not involved in this plot. Isis is an excuse to continue destroying Syria, with the ultimate goal of removing Assad and installing a compliant government.
    Isis also served the goal of forcing Maliki out in Iraq and installing a new government that immediately requested the Americans to send troops back to Iraq, after Maliki had successfully removed US troops from Iraq and denied the US any permanent bases. I don’t believe in happy coincidences.

  12. J-Gav on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 3:23 pm 

    In case yawl missed this one. For those with little time, skip it, it’s long, dense and complicated.

  13. rockman on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 3:58 pm 

    dmg – “Someone recently used the terms Slip and Sleeve versus Perk and Plug”. I suspect the terms were a little mixed up. Just a guess but I think there were talking about “sliding sleeves” and “perf”. Not sure what “plug” referred to but see below.

    You’ve heard of multistage frac’ng: pumping more than one frac job in a particular well. 20+ frac stages are becoming more common. But the trick is to isolate each frac stage from the other. Too complex to describe briefly but the common method took a good bit of time. But a quicker (i.e. cheaper) method was to use sliding sleeves. Essentially metal sections of pipe could be move across the holes in the casing that the frac was pumped thru. By opening and closing those holes with the SS they can isolate individual frac stages from each other. Was becoming popular in the Bakken but they weren’t building SS fast enough to meet demand about a year ago. Not sure what’s happening up there now. “Plug”: one older method to isolate stages was to pump a sand plug into the casing to separate the different stages. But the sand plug had to be drilled out to open the casing holes up.

    Not a very clear explanation. Here an article with details:

  14. Welch on Tue, 23rd Sep 2014 9:05 pm 

    “I read polls indicating that 9 out of 10 Americans consider ISIS a US national security threat”

    Clearly the average American isn’t very smart. Very gullible though.

  15. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 7:26 am 

    Frig Welsh, I lived in Europe, married a European, have a daughter European, and been with a European resident alien girlfriend for 4 years now. I can tell you from my many trips over all of Europe the average European has their fair share of issues with grey matter. Nothing over there to crow about. In fact Welsh just witness the stupidity going on with the so called educated Europeans with economy, geo-politics, and energy….Wow!

  16. JuanP on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 7:49 am 

    Welch, You would have to be here to understand how pervasive and overwhelming the MSM lies are to understand. I think it would be almost impossible for a normal person raising kids and paying the bills to figure out the truth.
    The average American is as smart as the average human. We are all not smart enough, not just Americans, ALL. The USA is just the most powerful country with the strongest military, and therefore gets understandably picked on more than others, but I don’t think they are better or worse than anyone else. In my country, Uruguay, the masses swallow all the MSM lies like they were candy, too.

  17. dmg102 on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 9:18 am 

    Your a terrific resource rock, no pun intended. Thanks for your insightful comments and reference link.

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