On September 11, President Obama announced plans to begin an open-ended airstrike campaign against Islamic state militants in Iraq and, for the first time, in Syria as well. Obama acknowledged that the extremist group ISIS does not pose an immediate threat to American citizens in the US; however, with ISIS behind the beheading of two American citizens in the last month, as well as capturing a large amount of territory in northern Iraq and Syria, many, such as retired General and current KKR Global Institute Chair David Petraeus, are backing the move.
“I thought that the President made a very strong statement last night about the threat posed by ISIL, a very compelling argument about the need to combat that threat, and a good point of departure,” said Petraeus at Colorado Remembers, an event discussing current terrorism issues and memorializing those who died in the 9/11 attacks.
Petraeus also suggested that the new government in Iraq, along with the assistance of American air power, could turn the tide on the events in the Middle East, despite desertions and retreats suffered when the militants first advanced.
Obama said the air strikes are necessary to prevent future threats to the US, and many believe he will have no problem convincing Congress of this, even though Republicans are concerned the situation could help Democrats in the coming November elections.
Obama’s speech was exactly a year from a different address in which he said he did not intend to launch air strikes against the Syrian regime headed by Bashar al-Assad. In that speech, Obama said he’d “spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them.”
His hand may have been forced at this point, however, with the advances ISIS has made in Iraq and Syria. Initial air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, billed as a method of defending US interests, became less than believable with 1,100 troops and “advisors” positioned in noncombat roles.
Obama stressed the inclusion of a campaign in Syria, on which Petraeus did not comment. However, the Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, seemed ready and willing to accept foreign aid. “The Syrian Coalition…stands ready and willing to partner with the international community not only to defeat ISIS but also rid the Syrian people of the tyranny of the Assad regime,” said Coalition chief Hadi Bahra.