The announcement by US President Barack Obama yesterday that America is prepared to initiate air strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq is a welcome and necessary measure.
The potential air strikes – coordinated with Iraqi forces – show appropriate willingness on the US behalf to protect the Kurdish city of Irbil, where American diplomats are stationed. They are also required to prevent the potential genocide of Yazidis and endless persecution of Christians by IS.
The US is also right to assist our Kurdish allies who are currently unable to match IS fighters in firepower. This assistance should include the supply of more weaponry.
Though welcome, Obama’s announcement exposes America’s lack of long-term strategy in Iraq. The premature US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 contributed to the revival of jihadist networks in Iraq. Now, the Islamic State poses a threat to not just the region, but to the West.
HJS Research Fellow Robin Simcox, who recently testified before the US Committee on Homeland Security on the topic, commented:
“It has not been confirmed that the US have committed any air strikes yet. However, the aggressive, expansionist nature of the Islamic State means it is likely to advance closer to Irbil; and its ideological commitment to kill those it perceives as its enemies means it will continue to persecute Yazidis. US military action is now almost inevitable.
“While US air strikes would be a welcome step, they will not be enough to dismantle IS. A broader strategy is ultimately needed. This will include pushing for Nouri al-Maliki’s resignation, addressing legitimate Sunni grievances, working towards political reconciliation and a sustained campaign to disrupt terrorist networks in Iraq.”