‘No safe haven’: Obama declares airstrikes on Islamic State ‘wherever it exists’
President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined his plan to authorize broader US military involvement for hunting down the fighters of the notorious Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq, Syria and “wherever they exist.”
In a public address to the American people, President Obama announced that the US will "conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists."
“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama stated. "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.”
The president’s strategy in Syria will also be to support opposition forces, and he again called on Congress to give the US government "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, “ Obama said.
To ensure that the Syrian opposition fighters are trained and equipped well enough to hold the ground liberated from the Islamic State terrorists, at least $500 million in a Department of Defense program are stipulated in a $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund request, according to the White House.
In the meantime, President Obama’s strategy in Iraq will be to support the Iraqi government 's fight against the Islamic State (IS), as Iraqis will be the ones to ultimately defeat the group in their country, he said. “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,” he said.
Obama also announced he is sending another "475 service members to Iraq to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. “
“These service members will join the several hundred American service members sent to Iraq in June to assess how best to support Iraqi Security,” he added. The plan, however, still does not involve “American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” the president said.
Instead, the military campaign will be boosted and waged “through a steady, relentless effort to take out [the Islamic State] wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
The US President emphasized that he will not hesitate to take direct military action against terrorists in Syria and Iraq to "degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistically and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks.”
Following the Islamic State’s rapid advances and propagandist threats to attack the US and assassinate American citizens, Obama has pledged to hunt down, degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group.
Before his address, Obama authorized the Secretary of State, under the Foreign Assistance Act, to draw up to $25 million dollars-worth of Department of Defense services and training.
That aid will be used to provide military assistance to the Government of Iraq, including the Kurdistan Regional Government, and to help in their efforts to fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group, according to a White House statement.
In the meantime, lawmakers postponed a vote scheduled Thursday in order to consider a request from Obama for a short-term spending measure to authorize the US military to train and equip foreign troops to help battle the Islamic State, a signal of growing support for the offensive by House Republicans.
If the authority is granted, it is unclear whether more American military personnel would be sent into Iraq or even deployed in Syria to train foreign fighters. “It’s clear to me that we need to train and equip Syrian rebels and other groups in the Middle East that need some help,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) according to Washington Post. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she would support the move only if rebel fighters were trained “out of country” and not in Syria.
The decision to order strikes against the Islamic State puts the US in a complex position by seeming to back the efforts of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been fighting jihadist rebels for three years in a civil war hijacked by the radicals. Syria was ready to cooperate and help coordinate attacks, but the US said it is not planning to seek Assad's approval for the strikes on terrorists.
The US Air Force has already carried out over 150 airstrikes on Islamic States positions in Iraq, while some US politicians insisted airstrikes in Syria are also needed.
In a phone call with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia made by Obama, both leaders shared their concerns over the threat posed by the Islamic State and agreed that a stronger Syrian opposition is essential to confronting extremists as well as the Assad regime, which has “lost all legitimacy,” according to a White House read out of the call.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, earlier this week, meeting with officials from Gulf Arab states to advance efforts to build a regional and international coalition to counter Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also held talks with representatives of Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey.
However, reports say it is uncertain what support, materially or otherwise, Obama has either from the Europeans or Middle Eastern allies. Germany and the UK have both already pledged military support to the Kurdish forces deterring IS in Iraq.
President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he had enough authority to take action against the militant group Islamic State, and does not need their formal approval.
The principal author of the 1973 Wars Powers Resolution, however, told the Institute for Public Accuracy, the President doesn’t have the authority.
“If the president orders acts of war in the absence of congressional approval, he risks impeachment by the House of Representatives for usurping a power the Constitution reserves exclusively to the Congress. If Obama wishes lawfully to order airstrikes in the territory of Iraq or Syria, he must first secure a resolution of approval from Congress,” said Paul Findley, a former Illinois Congressman.