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'''August 20, 2014''': The administration revealed that a mission to rescue captured Americans from Syria had been attempted prior to Foley's beheading, but failed. A spokesperson announced, "The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody. The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the President authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."<ref>[ ''The Hill'', "Obama's secret raid in Syria to free American hostages failed," August 20, 2014]</ref>
'''August 20, 2014''': The administration revealed that a mission to rescue captured Americans from Syria had been attempted prior to Foley's beheading, but failed. A spokesperson announced, "The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody. The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the President authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."<ref>[ ''The Hill'', "Obama's secret raid in Syria to free American hostages failed," August 20, 2014]</ref>
'''August 21, 2014''': Defense Secretary [[Chuck Hagel|Hagel]]] announced that all options were on the table as the administration examined the situation with ISIS. He did claim that U.S. airstrikes along with Iraqi and Kurdish forces had temporarily stopped but acknowledged that ISIS forces would regroup and stage another offensive.<ref>[ ''Associated Press'', "PENTAGON: ISLAMIC STATE MILITANTS WILL REGROUP," August 21, 2014]</ref>
==Recent news==
==Recent news==

Revision as of 14:38, 21 August 2014


Federal Issues

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The group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Sunni off-shoot of al-Qaeda attempting to create a new Islamic state, free of the leadership of the Shiite government.[1] This page will track the American response to ISIS as the group battles the Iraqi regime.


Following the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the Iraqi security forces were not well-trained or well-equipped enough to stave off ISIS, which had grown in power due to their actions in the civil war in neighboring Syria. In 2012, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq claimed, "if the Iraqi security forces are not able to put pressure on them, they could regenerate." ISIS' recruiting methods were made easier due to Prime Minister Maliki's use of power in suppressing Sunni dissent and taking political prisoners.[2] In 2014, following a period of poor relations with ISIS, al-Qaeda "disowned" the group after more than a decade of cooperation.[3]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of the group in 2010. Baghdadi spent four years in a U.S. insurgent prison from 2005 to 2009 for his ties to al-Qaeda, creating valuable connections with fellow prisoners before joining and then leading ISIS. When he first took control of the group, it was operated in a way similar to organized crime syndicates, staying spread out and layered, to stay protected. However, over time ISIS has grown into a much larger-scale operation which takes control of large territories. By taking and holding territory, prison breaks helped boost manpower, captured military bases provided them with weaponry and strongholds and they took cash reserves from banks to help finance themselves. They also rely on some wealthy donors throughout the region.[2]

The goal of ISIS was to create an Islamic state for Sunni muslims where Sharia law can be enforced, uniting parts of Iraq and Syria where the Sunni minorities live. The Soufan Group, a political risk consultant firm, stated, "ISIS has become indisputably the most effective and ruthless terrorist organization in the world."[2]

Civilian death toll

The United Nations estimated that between January 1 and June 30, 2014, more than 5,500 civilians were killed in the ISIS offensive with more than 11,000 others injured. The toll is on pace to be much higher than the 7,800 civilians killed in the conflict in 2013. Another 1.2 million Iraqis had been forced from their homes at the time of the report. The report also examined the "systematic and egregious violations" of international law and war crimes including sexual violence, kidnappings, murders and attacks on religious worship locations.[4]

Attitude toward Christians

ISIS took over the city of Mosul, Iraq, on June 10, 2014.[5] By mid-July the Christian residents of Mosul were given an ultimatum -- convert to Islam, leave, pay a tax, or face "the sword," by July 18. On July 18, 2014, ISIS changed the ultimatum forcing all Christians to leave Mosul by the next day or face death. The islamic letter for "N" was spray-painted on Christians' doors and declared the properties as owned by the Islamic State. Most Christians fled to Kurdish territory to the north and east of Mosul, which was emptied of Christians for the first time in 1,600 years.[6] It was also reported on July 25, 2014, that ISIS had destroyed the Christian Tomb of Jonah in Mosul as well as previous reports that four shrines to Sunni Arab and Sufi figures and six Shiite mosques were destroyed.[7][8]

Christian genocide

Mark Arabo, a California businessman and Chaldean-American leader described the slaughtering of Christians by ISIS in an interview with CNN as a "Christian genocide." He said, "Christianity in Mosul is dead, and a Christian holocaust is in our midst. children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung."[9]

He continued describing the atrocities, "They are systematically beheading children. And mothers and fathers. The world hasn't seen an evil like this for generations." "There's actually a park in Mosul where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick... this is crimes against humanity. They are doing the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking crimes that you can think of."[9]

Treatment of women

ISIS issued decrees on the clothing worn by women in their territory on July 25, 2014, stating that women needed to wear full-face veils, have their hands and feet covered at all times, wear clothes that don't fit tightly on their bodies and not wear perfume. Additionally, they were told not to walk in public without a male accompanying them. ISIS' explanation of the new rules claimed, "The conditions imposed on her clothes and grooming was only to end the pretext of debauchery resulting from grooming and overdressing. This is not a restriction on her freedom but to prevent her from falling into humiliation and vulgarity or to be a theatre for the eyes of those who are looking." They also announced the punishment for not following the restrictions, stating, "Anyone who is not committed to this duty and is motivated by glamour will be subject to accountability and severe punishment to protect society from harm and to maintain the necessities of religion and protect it from debauchery."[10]

Maliki ousted

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was ousted by the president of Iraq on August 11, 2014, a move that brought support from Obama and other heads of state around the world. Haider al-Abadi, of the same political party as Maliki, was nominated to replace Maliki in hopes of forming a more inclusive government to the region. Critics claimed Maliki made the situation worse by playing sectarian politics instead of maintaining a truly unifying government. Secretary of State John Kerry did worry, however, that Maliki would stir controversy in the area, suggesting, "The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq. Our hope is that Mr Maliki will not stir those waters."[11]

On August 13, 2014, Maliki issued an address rejecting the president's move in ousting him as prime minister as unconstitutional and insisted a federal court hear the case before he would leave office. Maliki stated, "Why do we insist that this government continue and stay as is until a decision by the federal court is issued? It is a constitutional violation — a conspiracy planned from the inside or from out.[12]

Yazidis in Sinjar Mountains

As many as 40,000 Iraqi Yazidis were surrounded in the Sinjar Mountains as they fled ISIS' advances. The U.S. carried out a humanitarian mission on August 7, 2014, to provide needed supplies to the Yazidis. The same day, President Barack Obama authorized the U.S. to carry out air strikes on ISIS targets surrounding the Sinjar Mountains in hopes of creating a way for the Yazidi people to escape ISIS.[13] The air strikes began the following day, continuing for two more days.[14]

On August 13, 2014, an ISIS commander claimed the group had taken more than 100 women and children hostages from the village of Sinjar while taking over the territory.[15]

The combination of United States air strikes and Kurdish forces allowed the Yazidis to escape the Sinjar Mountains on August 14, 2014. It was initially thought that U.S. ground forces might be used in the rescue operation, but following a reconnaissance mission by U.S. military advisers, it was determined that U.S. troops were not necessary.[16]

Mosul Dam air strikes

President Obama announced on August 17, 2014, U.S. air strikes would take place at Mosul Dam in an effort to allow Iraqi forces to capture it from ISIS. In the first two days, there were 23 air strikes in the area surrounding the Mosul Dam.[17] According to reports on the morning of August 18, 2014, Iraqi and Kurdish forces re-captured the Mosul Dam. If the dam had been destroyed by ISIS forces, parts of Baghdad could have experienced significant flooding.[18]

James Foley beheading

On August 19, 2014, ISIS released a video portraying the beheading of who the group claimed to be American photojournalist James Wright Foley, who was taken captive in Syria in 2012. The ISIS operative in the video claimed the killing was a result of America's involvement helping Iraqi forces fight against ISIS advances. He also stated more assassinations would take place if the United States remained involved after forcing Foley to read a statement placing blame on America for his own death. The group also claimed to have journalist Steven Sotloff. In a statement, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said they were investigating the authenticity of the video and added, "If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends."[19]

Possible ramifications

Three nations

Kurdish defenders of northern Iraq believed the country was on track to split back into three territories, as it was prior to the British uniting the territories into modern day Iraq. One colonel, defending the makeshift border, stated, "When the British set up this country in the 1920s they didn't do a good job. Before they were three provinces – Baghdad, Mosul and Basra. I think it will be three provinces again. History will go back to its original format." The Kurdish forces have been slowly staking out the territory where their people, as well as Christians, Yazidis, Turkmens and Arabs, live along with oil rich locations in the area. On July 11, 2014, they announced their withdrawal from the Iraqi government, choosing instead to attempt to defend their own borders from the ISIS threat.[20]


Obama administration reactions

President Barack Obama
June 12, 2014: While reviewing options in dealing with increasing violence in Iraq by ISIS, President Barack Obama stated, "What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates Iraq’s going to need more help." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cleared up the comments by insisting the president did not mean sending soldiers back to Iraq, suggesting, "We don’t believe that that is the approach that we should take in this case."[21]

A White House spokesperson reporting on Vice President Joe Biden's discussion with Prime Minister Maliki, stated that Biden, "made clear that the United States is prepared to continue to intensify and accelerate security support and cooperation with Iraq, under the Strategic Framework Agreement, to confront the urgent and growing threat posed by ISIL."[21]

June 16, 2014: Secretary of State John Kerry explained that the United States would be willing to listen if Iran wanted to help end the violence against Iraq's government. He stated, "We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform."[22]

June 21, 2014: Secretary Hagel responded to whether Afghanistan was likely to have the same struggles as Iraq after U.S. troops were withdrawn, claiming, "First, Afghanistan is not Iraq, internally, historically, ethnically, religiously,” Hagel responded. “Second, there is strong support in Afghanistan today for America’s continued [presence] as well as our NATO ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] there."[23]

July 6, 2014: Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson admitted he was "concerned" about the possible threats posed by ISIS and heightened U.S. airport security in countries that have direct flights to the U.S.[24]

July 31, 2014: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Israel's bombing of a U.N. school "totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," in a meeting with press. He also claimed that Israel "can and should do more to protect the lives of innocent civilians," a statement reinforced by the Pentagon.[25]

August 8, 2014: While reiterating that the administration would not be sending troops into Iraq, Press Secretary Earnest insisted that the White House was not seeking additional funding for the conflict, explaining, "There are many challenges facing the people of Iraq right now, and it’s the view of the president that those challenges cannot be solved by the American military."[26]

August 12, 2014: President Obama pledged support to Haider al-Abadi, upon being announced as a nominee to become Iraq's new prime minister, "There is no American military solution to the long-term crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and to form an inclusive government, one that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis and one that can unify the country’s fight against ISIL."[27]

Secretary of State John Kerry also stated that the U.S. would support the new government regime in different ways, but he drew the line with the topic of sending troops back, claiming, "There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. Nobody, I think, is looking forwards to a return to the road that we’ve travelled." Kerry also noted talks with Australian Defense Minister David Johnston aimed at working out the provision of humanitarian aid to parts of Iraq, as well as developing a plan on how to handle fighting jihadists who wish to return to their home countries following the war.[28]

August 13, 2014: Kerry told reporters U.S. military personnel were looking into the idea of a rescue operation to get the trapped Yazidis being held on a mountain in Iraq. He stated, "Well, that's exactly what we're assessing," Kerry responded. "This is precisely what the team that [President Obama] sent in is prepared to do. We will make a very rapid and critical assessment, because we understand it's urgent to try and move those people off the mountain. And I hope we can have more to report in short order."[29]

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes announced U.S. ground troops were still an option in attempting to free the Yazidis trapped by ISIS on Mt. Sinjar, explaining, "We don’t believe it’s sustainable to just have, you know, permanent airdrops to this population on the mountain. Some of them have been able to escape but, again, we want to get options in place to move them to a safer place."[30]

While the White House was considering options, the Department of Defense released a statement downplaying the number of people stranded on Mt. Sinjar, as well as the concerns about their physical conditions. The spokesperson discussed a team of U.S. soldiers who provided an assessment of the humanitarian situation of the Yazidis, claiming, "The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely. Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities."[31]

August 14, 2014: The Pentagon's press secretary defended action in Iraq as trying to stop a genocide, claiming, "We believe that the risk of genocide was real. We were, at the outset, talking about tens of thousands of these refugees who were being chased and slaughtered and fired upon by ISIL." He continued suggesting that while the administration's actions may have stopped ISIS from killing the Yazidi people on Mount Sinjar, "We’re not taking our eye off the ball in terms of humanitarian suffering in Iraq. Nobody’s doing high-fives here at the Pentagon because there are fewer people on the mountain than we thought. There’s no happy dances here because we think the situation is better; … we understand there continues to be human suffering in Iraq.[32]

August 17, 2014: President Obama expanded the airstrikes in Iraq to target the Mosul Dam, a strategic location held by ISIS forces. White House staff sent a letter to Congress explaining, "The mission is consistent with the president’s directive that the U.S. military protect U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, since the failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities — including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."[17]

August 20, 2014: Responding to Foley's beheading, John Kerry condemned ISIS, stating, "The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil. [ISIS] and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable.[33]

President Obama ensured that he would seek justice for Foley's execution, stating, "The United States of America will continue to do what we must to do protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what is necessary to make sure justice is done." He then went on to criticize the terrorist group, suggesting, "ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior." He continued, "ISIL speaks for no religion," Obama said. "Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings."[34]

Republican reactions

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
June 12, 2014: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was disappointed in the lack of immediate action by the administration and suggested, "Everybody in his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced. It’s a colossal failure of American security policy."[21]

June 13, 2014: Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Corker (R-TN) called for air strikes of ISIS with Graham stating, "Our most immediate priority must be to reverse the advance of a terrorist force that is more radical, violent, and ambitious than Al-Qaeda. We see no way to achieve this goal without U.S. air strikes."[35]

June 15, 2014: Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) claimed on Fox News that thousands of Americans and westerners had joined ISIS and they could have "the capability to tap people with Western passports to send them back to Europe and the United States for terrorist activity."[36]

June 18, 2014: Prior to a meeting with House and Senate leadership and President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) stated his desire to learn the administration's overall strategy for the Iraqi conflict, insisting, "What I’m hoping to hear from the president today is the broader strategy for how we help keep the freedom we paid dearly for the people of Iraq. It’s more than one step here. I’m looking for the overall strategy."[37]

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

July 8, 2014: After meeting with the Defense Secretary Hagel and the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, Sen. McCain again voiced his frustration about the lack of a plan of how to ease tensions in Iraq. McCain stated, "There isn’t a strategy for countering the largest enclave for terrorism in history on the Iraq-Syria border. They will be planning attacks on the United States. So we should be taking actions to remove that threat."[38]

August 9, 2014: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that President Barack Obama must seek congressional authorization if the airstrikes are to continue against ISIS forces in Iraq. Cruz said, "I believe initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case and to seek congressional authorization. I hope that if he intends to continue this that he does that." Cruz has been largely supportive of the bombings and humanitarian aid, however. He stated, "I am glad that President Obama is finally beginning to take the threat of ISIS seriously."[39]

August 10, 2014: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the administration's handling of foreign policy, claiming there was a "vacuum of American leadership throughout the Middle East." He argued for increased air strikes, including in Syria and providing equipment and training to the Iraqi military, Kurds and Free Syrian Army.[40] He disagreed with the administration's strategy, suggesting, "Launching three strikes around a place where horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place, meanwhile [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)] continues to make gains everywhere, yes is clearly very, very ineffective, to say the least."[41]

August 12, 2014: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came forward with his thoughts on the air strikes in Iraq, pointing out, "I have mixed feelings about it,” the senator said Monday evening of the recent strikes against ISIL targets. “I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing, but I am concerned that ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria for a year. Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them? Assad, the Syrian government."[42]

August 13, 2014: Sen. Paul again spoke out in regard to U.S. foreign policy in Iraq suggesting the president needed to receive approval from Congress before sending troops back to Iraq, stating, "When he ran for office, he said no president should unilaterally go to war without the approval of Congress unless we're in imminent danger. So really I'd like President Obama to go back and meet candidate Obama and see if they can come to an agreement." He did, however, show support for the humanitarian efforts and air strikes of ISIS locations.[43]

August 17, 2014: Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) claimed al-Qaeda and ISIS were competing to become the "premier terrorist organization," stating, "Before 9/11, there were single-level threat streams coming to the United States. So, pretty serious. Obviously they got in and conducted the attacks on 9/11. Now you have multiple organizations, all Al Qaeda minded, trying to accomplish the same thing." He continued, suggesting, "You're not going to solve the [ISIS] problem in Iraq without dealing with the Syria problem," he said. "We should absolutely play a role there."[44]

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) urged more significant action in Iraq, arguing, "We need to defeat them. We need to be highly concerned about this. This threat is a gathering storm. It’s not going away." He called for the gathering of NATO forces in order to handle the threat of ISIS.[45]

August 18, 2014: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced their support for the administration's order for air strikes to re-take the Mosul Dam, stating, "We applaud President Obama's decision to step up U.S. air strikes in support of Kurdish and Arab Iraqi forces who are fighting to retake the Mosul Dam."[46]

August 20, 2014: Rep. Rogers criticized President Obama's continuing his vacation following the Foley execution, citing British Prime Minister David Cameron's early return from his vacation, "The optics of being on vacation and not coming away from that vacation, I just think are bad. That is why I think [Cameron] is going back. He is going to show he is the prime minister and he is taking this matter seriously, and he is on the job making the decisions that you need to make to keep Britain safe."[34]

Democratic reactions

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
June 12, 2014: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) encouraged the administration to begin talks with Congress, saying, "The way we ought to do this here in Washington is that the president should put a plan on the table and make a suggestion to Congress about what we should do. I would strongly recommend that the administration come to Congress very, very soon and put some options on the table about what we should be able to do."[21]

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Armed Services Committee, claimed the committee would not rule out any actions, but said they would not rush the process. He stated, "We shouldn’t knee jerk anything. The Iraqi government a few years back when they had a chance to sign an agreement that would keep some of our presence there, refused to do it. So we’ve got to be very careful and thoughtful before we do anything."[21]

June 18, 2014: Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), the only Iraq war veteran in Senate, suggested the U.S. step back and let the Iraqis "secure and defend their own nation, to embrace their own self-determination is the only path to a true and everlasting peace in Iraq."[47]

June 25, 2014: Sen. Kaine warned the president, prior the July 4th recess, against acting unilaterally in Iraq. He stated, "I do not believe that this President or any President has the ability, without Congressional approval, to initiate military action in Iraq or anywhere else, except in the case of an emergency posing an imminent threat to the U.S. or its citizens. And I also assert that the current crisis in Iraq, while serious and posing the possibility of a long-term threat to the United States, is not the kind of conflict where the President can or should act unilaterally. If the United States is to contemplate military action in Iraq, the President must seek Congressional authorization."[48]

July 1, 2014: Sen. Walsh wrote a letter to the president asking for the limits on the administration's involvement in Iraq. His letter read, "A continued escalation of U.S. commitment in Iraq is troubling. The president has promised to prevent ‘mission creep.' But how many Americans will we deploy? How much money will we spend?"[49]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
July 2, 2014: In a Politico editorial, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) argued "ISIL has been successful in Iraq largely because of Sunni animosity toward the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His government has not governed inclusively and has fueled sectarian distrust. Simply put, Maliki needs to go."[50]

July 8, 2014: Former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) claimed the United States broke a promise by not getting involved in the conflict and should take responsibility. Lieberman argued, "This is, today, a question of America’s word. At any moment, a push from Iran could turn [Iraqi] guns on these people and that would be a terrible stain on America’s honor and reputation. We’ve got to get them out of there as quickly as possible."[51]

August 10, 2014: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) staked his claim, "The bottom line is this: There is so much we can do to help the Iraqis help themselves." He also shared his stance on the possibility of a military intervention in the conflict, stating, "I can tell you this: Escalating it is not in the cards."[52]

August 12, 2014: Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) spoke out in support of the president's actions through airstrikes, but warned the administration about "mission creep" without approval from Congress. Hoyer claimed, "All of us agree that boots on the ground are not in the offing, at this point in time, nor should they be … without further consultation and action by the Congress. But I think the president is acting properly, and I have urged the administration to act decisively in terms of protection of the Kurdish area of Iraq and giving the humanitarian aid to the people who were surrounded on that mountain." Likewise, Lee stated, "If they change their policy and decide differently, other than limited targeted strikes … they should come to Congress, we should have a debate, and we should [have] the vote."[53]

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) had a different approach, urging additional spending to help train, supply and guide the Iraqi forces to victory, suggesting, "We have to allow them, by equipment, some training, some tactical advice, the capability to go after ISIS or ISIL and not only just keep them in a box but gradually reclaim the country of Iraq for the Iraqi people."[54]

August 13, 2014: Sen. Bernie Sanders called for action from the international community in fighting off ISIS advances in Iraq, suggesting, "The United States is not the only country on earth with an air force." He continued to argue that "the U.S. should not have to act alone militarily in this crisis."[55]

August 17, 2014: Sen. Eliot Engel (D-NY) admitted that the threat of ISIS may require ground forces, suggesting, "Ultimately, we may have some boots on the ground there," but he claimed it would not be the same as the prior invasion of Iraq. He defended his thoughts, stating, "What’s going on in Iraq is horrific, and it warrants a response,” Engel said. “We cannot just put our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist."[45]

International reactions

June 22, 2014: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated his desire for the U.S. to stay out of Iraq, saying, "We strongly oppose the intervention of the U.S. and others in the domestic affairs of Iraq. The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the U.S. camp and those who seek an independent Iraq. The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power."[56]

June 27, 2014: In an interview with CNN, Iraq's Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily urged the United States to help the government stop ISIS, pleading, "At an extremely difficult time, we need immediate help to face an immediate threat. We don’t have the luxury of waiting."[57]

July 6, 2014: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said of the U.S.' lack of involvement in Iraq, "I think the U.S. is absolutely right to leverage its support to say to Prime Minister Maliki that he has to change or the government has to change."[58]

August 8, 2014: British Defense Minister Michael Fallon stated that England would not give their support through military action, but would help contribute to the humanitarian efforts, stating, "We welcome what America is doing in particular to bring humanitarian relief and to prevent any further suffering. But our focus is on assisting that humanitarian mission, using our military in support of the Americans in terms of refueling and surveillance, and add to it with food drops with our own."[59]

August 13, 2014: Maliki issued an address rejecting the Iraqi president's move in ousting him as prime minister as an unconstitutional act and insisted a federal court hear the case before he would leave office. Maliki stated, "Why do we insist that this government continue and stay as is until a decision by the federal court is issued? It is a constitutional violation — a conspiracy planned from the inside or from out.[60]

Actions proposed

June 14, 2014: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier be moved to the Persian Gulf for added flexibility if President Obama chose to act.[61]

June 16, 2014: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested the administration talk with the Iranian government due to their Shiite connections. Graham stated, "The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure that Baghdad doesn’t fall. We need to co-ordinate with the Iranians and the Turks need to get into the game."[36]

June 16, 2014: State Department officials announced that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad received additional security and some of the 5,000 personnel were either moved to more secure areas of the country or pulled out of the country. It is the United States' largest embassy worldwide.[22] President Obama clarified in an address to Congress that 275 armed military personnel would be stationed in Baghdad for the purpose of protecting the embassy and U.S. citizens, if necessary.[62]

June 19, 2014: President Obama announced that 300 U.S. military advisers would be sent to Iraq in addition to plans aimed at improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. He stated, "We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it," but again insisted that no American troops would be sent over to help the Iraqi government in the conflict.[63]

June 24, 2014: President Obama hosted all 100 senators for a briefing on Iraq in the White House.[64]

June 28, 2014: Military officials confirmed that armed unmanned drones were deployed over Baghdad for the purpose of protecting the advisers and embassy. No authorization was given for the drones to begin airstrikes on ISIS militants.[65]

June 30, 2014: President Obama ordered another 300 U.S. soldiers sent to Baghdad in order to provide additional security to the embassy and U.S. citizens.[66]

July 25, 2014: The U.S. House voted 370-40 passing a resolution that would block the president from sending ground troops into Iraq without the approval of Congress. The measure was not expected to pass through the Senate, however.[67]

August 7, 2014: The U.S. Air Force carried out a humanitarian mission in Iraq, dropping 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 ready-to-eat meals on Mt. Sinjar. At least 40,000 members of the Yazidi religion were trapped on Mt. Sinjar by ISIS terrorists, forced to face starvation and dehydration on the mountain or death if they came down. Senior administration officials said the air drops and humanitarian aid would continue "as we see need."[68][69]

August 7, 2014: President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq if necessary. Obama said, "We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq." The president did say that there would be no troops deployed on the ground, "I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis, as they take the flight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq."[69]

August 8, 2014: A day after the authorization was granted, the first airstrike was carried out in Iraq. The strike targeted a mobile artillery unit near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish province which contains a U.S. consulate. Obama said that the artillery was being "used against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, near US personnel." [69]

August 9-10, 2014: Several more airstrikes against ISIS armored vehicles and mortar positions were carried out over the weekend. The U.S. also continued dropping food and water to the civilians trapped on Mt. Sinjar. In total, over 74,000 meals and 15,000 gallons of fresh water have been dropped over Mt. Sinjar.[70][71]

August 11, 2014: U.S. officials announced, under anonymity, the United States was providing arms to the Kurdish forces in Iraq in an effort to defend themselves from ISIS advancements. Historically secretive arms deals have been conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, but no indication was given as to which agency was charged with providing weapons.[72]

August 12, 2014: President Obama ordered 130 more military advisers to Iraq to manage the humanitarian efforts of the U.S. government. A Department of Defense spokesperson clarified that they were being sent to help the Yazidi people surrounded by ISIS troops and stated, "These forces will not be engaged in a combat role."[73]

August 17, 2014: President Obama ordered more air strikes, this time in an effort to allow Iraqi troops to recover the Mosul Damn from ISIS forces.[17]

August 20, 2014: The administration revealed that a mission to rescue captured Americans from Syria had been attempted prior to Foley's beheading, but failed. A spokesperson announced, "The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody. The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the President authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."[74]

August 21, 2014: Defense Secretary Hagel] announced that all options were on the table as the administration examined the situation with ISIS. He did claim that U.S. airstrikes along with Iraqi and Kurdish forces had temporarily stopped but acknowledged that ISIS forces would regroup and stage another offensive.[75]

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See also


  1. Politico, "What is happening in Iraq and why?," June 12, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 CNN, "ISIS: The first terror group to build an Islamic state?," June 12, 2014
  3. Russia Today, "All you need to know about ISIS and what is happening in Iraq," June 20, 2014
  4. The Guardian, "Iraqi civilian death toll passes 5,500 in wake of Isis offensive," July 18, 2014
  5. The Guardian, "Isis insurgents seize control of Iraqi city of Mosul," June 10, 2014
  6. The Economist, "Nearly all gone," July 26, 2014
  7. The Washington Post, "After leveling Iraq’s Tomb of Jonah, the Islamic State could destroy ‘anything in the Bible’," July 25, 2014
  8. Newsweek, "ISIS Destroys Mosques and Shrines in Iraq: Pictures," July 8, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 CNS News, "Leader: ISIS is ‘Systematically Beheading Children' in 'Christian Genocide'," August 7, 2014
  10. The Guardian, "Iraq: Isis warns women to wear full veil or face punishment," July 25, 2014
  11. The Telegraph, "Tanks on Baghdad's streets, but Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki finally ousted," August 11, 2014
  12. The Hill, "Al-Maliki unwavering in remaining as Iraqi PM," August 13, 2014
  13. ABC News, "US Carries Out More Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq," August 8, 2014
  14. CNN, "Officials: U.S. airstrikes pound ISIS militants firing at Iraq's Yazidis," August 10, 2014
  15. CNN, "ISIS commander: Yazidi women, children abducted, taken to Mosul," August 13, 2014
  16. Time, "U.S. Says That Insurgents’ Siege of Iraqi Mountain Has Ended," August 14, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Politico, "White House broadens Iraq air mission," August 17, 2014
  18. The Hill, "Kurdish, Iraqi forces retake Mosul Dam," August 18, 2014
  19. The Guardian, "Islamic State militants claim to have killed US journalist James Foley," August 20, 2014
  20. The Guardian, "Kurds on Iraq's new faultline feel destiny beckoning," July 11, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Politico, "White House: Iraq options don’t include ground troops," June 12, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 Huffington Post, "John Kerry: U.S. Open To Cooperating With Iran Over Iraq Conflict," June 16, 2014
  23. Al Jazeera, "Can Iraq's fate befall Afghanistan?," June 21, 2014
  24. Politico, "Johnson: Terrorist threat remains," July 6, 2014
  25. The Hill, "White House criticizes Israel for ‘indefensible’ deaths at UN school," July 31, 2014
  26. The Hill, "WH not seeking additional Iraq funds," August 8, 2014
  27. Politico, "Barack Obama backs effort for new Iraqi government," August 12, 2014
  28. The Guardian, "John Kerry insists any US moves in Iraq will not involve combat troops," August 12, 2014
  29. The Hill, "Kerry: US assessing options to help trapped civilians in Iraq," August 13, 2014
  30. The Hill, "US ground forces an option in Yazidi rescue," August 13, 2014
  31. The Hill, "Pentagon: Evacuation mission in Iraq 'far less likely'," August 13, 2014
  32. Politico, "Genocide averted, Iraq crisis persists," August 14, 2014
  33. The Hill, "Kerry: ISIS 'must be destroyed'," August 20, 2014
  34. 34.0 34.1 The Hill, "Obama: Entire world 'appalled' at ISIS execution of US journalist," August 20, 2014
  35. Politico, "GOP senators call for Iraq air strikes," June 13, 2014
  36. 36.0 36.1 Russia Today, "ISIS 'greatest national security threat since 9/11,' lawmakers warn," June 16, 2014
  37. Politico, "John Boehner wants 'overall' Obama Iraq strategy," June 18, 2014
  38. Politico, "Senators want more on U.S. Iraq plans," July 8, 2014
  39. Time, "Ted Cruz: Obama Must Seek Congressional Authorization For Iraq Strikes," August 9, 2014
  40. Politico, "McCain: U.S. military mission in Iraq 'ineffective'," August 10, 2014
  41. The Hill, "McCain: Iraq airstrikes 'clearly ineffective'," August 10, 2014
  42. Politico, "Paul not opposed to Iraq bombing," August 12, 2014
  43. The Hill, "Rand Paul: No boots on the ground in Iraq without Congress," August 13, 2014
  44. The Hill, "Rogers: ISIS, al Qaeda competing to be 'premier terrorist organization'," August 17, 2014
  45. 45.0 45.1 Politico, "Lawmakers warn of 'gathering storm' in Iraq," August 17, 2014
  46. The Hill, "Sens. McCain, Graham ‘applaud’ Obama for airstrikes to retake dam," August 18, 2014
  47. The Washington Post, "Only Iraq war veteran in Senate urges ‘extreme caution’," June 18, 2014
  49. Huffington Post, "Democratic Senator Warns Against 'Mission Creep' As Obama Sends More Troops To Iraq," July 1, 2014
  50. Politico, "Maliki Must Go," July 2, 2014
  51. Politico, "Joe Lieberman: U.S. broke its word," July 8, 2014
  52. Politico, "Durbin: 'Only Iraq can save Iraq'," August 10, 2014
  53. The Hill, "Key Democrats offer Obama support on Iraq — and a warning," August 12, 2014
  54. The Hill, "Sen. Reed: Boost military aid to Iraqis to beat ISIS," August 12, 2014
  55. [ The Hill, "Sanders: US shouldn't have to fight ISIS alone," August 13, 2014]
  56. Politico, "Iraqi militants continue advance," June 22, 2014
  57. Politico, Iraqi ambassador: ‘Immediate help’ needed," June 27, 2014
  58. Politico, "Blair sees Iraq crisis as a 'long-term problem'," July 6, 2014
  59. The Hill, "US reaches out to allies to boost Iraq aid," August 8, 2014
  60. The Hill, "Al-Maliki unwavering in remaining as Iraqi PM," August 13, 2014
  61. Politico, "Chuck Hagel orders U.S. aircraft carrier to Persian Gulf," June 14, 2014
  62. Politico, "Up to 275 U.S. military personnel headed to Iraq," June 16, 2014
  63. USA Today, "Obama plans to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq," June 19, 2014
  64. Politico, "Senators invited to Iraq briefing," June 24, 2014
  65. The Guardian, "US flying armed drones in Iraq," June 28, 2014
  66. CBS News, "300 more U.S. troops headed to Iraq," June 30, 2014
  67. The Guardian, "House votes to block president from sending US troops to fight in Iraq," July 25, 2014
  68. The Guardian, "40,000 Iraqis stranded on mountain as Isis jihadists threaten death," August 6, 2014
  69. 69.0 69.1 69.2 Abc News, "Airstrikes in Iraq," August 8, 2014
  70. CNN, "Iraq crisis: Troops swell in Baghdad amid ISIS threat, humanitarian nightmare," August 11, 2014
  71. CNN, "Officials: U.S. airstrikes pound ISIS militants firing at Iraq's Yazidis," August 10, 2014
  72. Politico, "U.S. sending arms to Kurds in Iraq," August 11, 2014
  73. The Hill, "Obama orders more than 100 advisers to Iraq," August 12, 2014
  74. The Hill, "Obama's secret raid in Syria to free American hostages failed," August 20, 2014
  75. Associated Press, "PENTAGON: ISLAMIC STATE MILITANTS WILL REGROUP," August 21, 2014