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Posts in "Syria"
September 23, 2014
Congress ducked a Syria war authorization vote, but that isn’t stopping President Barack Obama from touting support for his airstrikes against the Islamic State and other terror groups in Syria.
“I’ve spoken to leaders in Congress, and I’m pleased that there’s bipartisan support for the actions that we’re taking,” Obama said Tuesday. “America’s always stronger when we stand united, and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country,” he said before heading to New York for meetings at the United Nations.
Obama touted the Arab coalition that joined in the strikes — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. Full story
Congressional hawks are cheering the multifaceted overnight airstrikes in Syria that included attacks on Islamic State insurgents and an al Qaida offshoot called the Khorasan Group, while others are lamenting Congress’ decision to duck a war authorization vote.
“Our men and women in uniform are once again striking an enemy that threatens our freedom,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif. ”This is one step in what will be a long fight against ISIL. With strong coalition partners, a capable military, and a clear mission; it is a fight we can win.”
The Islamic State is also known as ISIL or ISIS.
“It is especially significant — indeed historic — that these strikes involve forces from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. ”The visible, public involvement of Arab and Muslim nations is crucial to long-term success against ISIS. While Western military force can help combat the poisonous ideology of groups such as ISIS, ultimately it is up to Muslim nations to resist and eliminate this poison.”
Other lawmakers said the strikes should have been authorized by Congress, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala.
A new “Authorization for Use of Military Force” is sorely needed. I would support returning to Washington to debate and vote on a new AUMF.
— Rep. Bradley Byrne (@RepByrne) September 23, 2014
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on MSNBC reiterated his push for Congress to act, but said he doesn’t expect Congress to return until after the elections.
So far, any opposition in Congress has been muted.
“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” said Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of House Homeland Security, in a statement.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California called the strikes “long overdue.”
“While this initial attack will be a big psychological blow to the terrorist group, an air campaign will need to be major and sustained,” he said.
President Obama is scheduled to speak about the strikes in an address from the White House before he heads to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
The simultaneous strikes against the Khorasan Group, meanwhile, were taken to disrupt an “imminent attack.”
“The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group — who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations,” Central Command said in a statement this morning.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Syrian regime was informed of the intent to strike by Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
“We warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft. We did not request the regime’s permission. We did not coordinate our actions with the Syrian government. We did not provide advance notification to the Syrians at a military level, or give any indication of our timing on specific targets,” she said.
John Donnelly contributed to this report.
September 12, 2014
The White House doesn’t know yet how much the new war with ISIS will cost, but it knows how it will pay for it: the all-purpose war funding credit card.
Officially known as Overseas Contingency Operations, it’s the catchall account used to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that is now funding the war against the group also known as the Islamic State or ISIL.
The White House is counting on OCO money in the pending continuing resolution to pay for President Barack Obama’s plan to go on offense against the group.
In a practical sense, a vote for the CR is a vote to fund Obama’s war, even though the words “ISIS” and “ISIL” do not appear anywhere in the text. In the draft House CR, it’s simply listed as funding for “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism.”
September 11, 2014
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday laid out the administration’s legal argument for going to war against ISIS based on the 2001 authorization to use military force — even though the organization did not exist then and has publicly split with al-Qaida.
Earnest said the group, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, was previously called al-Qaida in Iraq, consulted with Osama bin Laden and have similar ambitions.
“It is the view of … the Obama administration that the 2001 AUMF continues to apply to ISIL because of their decade-long relationship with al-Qaida, their continuing ties to al-Qaida; because … they have continued to employ the kind of heinous tactics that they previously employed when their name was al-Qaida in Iraq. And finally, because they continue to have the same kind of ambition — aspiration that they articulated under their previous name.” Full story
September 10, 2014
Here’s the president’s remarks as prepared for delivery from the White House:
My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the “Islamic State.”
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in 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 helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, 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. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work – and Iraq has formed a government – we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. 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, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism 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. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back – America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.
Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
Updated 9:44 p.m. | President Barack Obama wants the approval of Congress as he announces a broad new air war against ISIS, including strikes in Syria, but says he already has the authority he needs.
In a speech outlining a new strategy to destroy the group also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, Obama announced an extensive air campaign with no set end date, and plans to rely on others to engage in a ground war — Iraqi forces in Iraq, and Syrian moderates in Syria.
Congress will have a role to play, but it might be a bit part.
“Following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama told the nation in the primetime address.
September 6, 2014
President Barack Obama will meet Tuesday with the top four congressional leaders, with foreign policy on the agenda, according to a senior Senate aide.
The meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., follows the NATO summit and comes as Obama has vowed to marshal an international coalition to “destroy” the terrorist group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL.
McConnell issued a statement Saturday calling on Obama to propose a strategy at the meeting: Full story
September 5, 2014
In his harshest words to date, President Barack Obama vowed to “destroy” the terrorist group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL.
“We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, the same way we have gone after al-Qaida,” he said.
Obama said NATO allies unanimously backed the need to take action against the group, and talked of a new phase of the United States’ effort to extend efforts beyond the more than 100 airstrikes launched in Iraq so far. That includes bolstering Iraq’s military and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as well as appealing to Sunni tribes to reject ISIS. Full story
September 3, 2014
President Barack Obama walked back his own remarks about a lack of a strategy to take on ISIS in Syria Wednesday — vowing to rally a regional coalition to take on the Islamic State group and mentioning the possibility of seeking congressional authorization.
A day after ISIS released a video showing the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff, and as a Democratic senator has proposed legislation authorizing strikes in Syria, Obama said his strategy to fight ISIS in Iraq is working, with airstrikes rolling back ISIS’ gains while Iraqis make progress forming an inclusive central government.
At a news conference on his trip to Estonia, Obama said it’s going to take time to take on the group, also known as ISIL, and build a regional coalition.
“Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States,” he said.
Obama said that in his comment last week about not having a strategy yet, “I was specifically referring to the possibility of the military strategy inside of Syria that might require congressional approval.”
“It is very important from my perspective that when we send our pilots in to do a job, that we know that this is a mission that’s going to work, that we’re very clear on what our objectives are, what our targets are; we’ve made the case to Congress and we’ve made the case to the American people; and we’ve got allies behind us so that it’s not just a one-off, but it’s something that over time is going to be effective,” he said.
“It’s not only that we’re going to be bringing to justice those who perpetrated this terrible crime against these two fine young men. More broadly, the United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision that ISIL represents. And that’s going to take some time, but we’re going to get it done. I’m very confident of it.”
September 2, 2014
As news broke Tuesday that the Islamic State had posted a video claiming to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, the White House still hasn’t figured out how to take on the group in Syria.
“The president and his team are still working on” a military strategy for Syria, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at Tuesday’s briefing.
Earnest came out shortly before reports of the beheading emerged; he said he was not aware of the reports and promised the video would be examined for its authenticity. He noted the United States had tried to rescue Sotloff and offered thoughts for his family.
Republicans have become increasingly hawkish about attacking ISIS — also knowns as ISIL — in recent days. Full story