Obama's Latest War Authorization Letter and ISIS Update

President Obama has written Congress explaining his decision to conduct airstrikes on Amerli:

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

As I reported on August 8 and 17, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces have conducted targeted airstrikes in Iraq for the limited purposes of stopping the advance on Erbil by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), supporting civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar, and supporting operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. U.S. Armed Forces have also provided humanitarian assistance to the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

On August 28, 2014, I further authorized U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli, Iraq, which is surrounded and besieged by ISIL. Pursuant to this authorization, on August 30, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in the vicinity of Amirli, Iraq. These additional operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.


I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. These actions are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the Iraqi government.

The U.S. is still conducting airstrikes at the Mosul Dam. There were 3 today and 80 total. Didn't we already secure the dam? Why are we still bombing it? There have been almost daily strikes on it since the announcement of the takeover on August 18.

Everyone seems to be pushing Obama for an all out war against ISIS. I hope he doesn't cave to the pressure. The more equipment we send, the more ISIS will get its hands on. There is still no evidence ISIS plans to attack the U.S. Tweets by ISIS fanboys are not threats from ISIS.

By his restraint, Obama is showing leadership. The war-mongering Republicans should be tuned out. Here's an interesting op-ed in an Australian paper today about Obama and his strategy by a professor of strategic studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU .

In related news, ISIS appears poised to take the Deir Ezzor military airport in Syria. Last night, thousands of ISIS fighters started preparing for an onslaught. The commander of the airport, Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine, said basically, Bring it On. Today, he abandoned his troops and flew to his hometown. Here's a news article confirming his departure (use google translate) which has been reported on Twitter with photos all day.

On the Iraq side, it looks like ISIS and the Iraqi forces are engaged in a heavy battle in Tikrit. Earlier, it was reported that Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militiamen retook the town of Sulaiman Bek near Tikrit, killing 23 Chechen ISIS fighters. ISIS has begun telling its supporters not to publish reports of battles in progress, so no details yet from them.

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    If George Will is sounding semi rational (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 07:11:52 PM EST
    Maybe there is hope

    George Will, the conservative pundit who is usually unintelligible, breaks from the Republican talking points that paint Obama as weak for not immediately unleashing the Kraken on ISIS and then makes some good points on Fox News about how we should deal with ISIS. George actually applauded President Obama for not rushing into a nightmare scenario, praising him for his cautious approach.

    GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, yes, I mean, caution, which is what he's being criticized for, is a nice defect to have after the first decade of the century. On the other hand, the rhetoric has not been cautious. The president talked about rolling back ISIS, Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talking about the need to destroy ISIS. That means liberate large cities that have been taken, which you can't do with F-16s and F-18s.

    I think what the president is trying to do, and I sympathize with this, is to get the neighborhood to rally. I mean, look what's in the neighborhood. Saudi Arabia has 250 highly competent aircraft and an AWACS system to control it. You got Iran and Iraq, are enemies of ISIS, so is Syria, Jordan, and the Kurds who are, for all intents and purposes, a nation right now.

    So, you got six nations in the neighborhood. If they can't do it, we shouldn't.

    Of course, intelligence is key (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:37:45 PM EST
    and, with so many American and European Nationals volunteering for ISIS it shouldn't be too hard for our intelligence agencies to find out what ISIS's ultimate plans are.

    If their goals are to establish a regional, Mid-Eastern Caliphate then it's up to the big boys there (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, etc.) to neutralize them. On the other hand, if ISIS is following Germany's 1935-1939 steps for world domination, then that's a totally different picture.

    In either case, let's see what our security/intelligence apparatus comes up with.

    And we aren't alone in that either (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:34:43 PM EST
    NATO intel is involved as well.  Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia...all strong allies as well.

    Good point (none / 0) (#13)
    by NYShooter on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 12:13:03 AM EST
    The Bushes put together a coalition for going to war, it looks like the President is trying to put together a coalition to keep us out of a war.

    So far, so good.


    Interesting... (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:41:17 AM EST
    but I'm wondering how you figure that...

    It seems to me that we are making a big deal about confronting Russia with a reinvigorated NATO.

    To me, not a pleasant prospect.

    I also am skeptical that Obama will not step things up - bombings in Syria for example, once the midterm elections are over.

    My sense is that we are considering our foothold in Iraq to be what one of Obama's spokespeople called, "our interests". You know, 104 acre embassy with 15,000 personnel... and who knows what ties to Iraqi oil...

    I want to believe that Obama wants to keep us out of war, but I am having some difficulty doing so.


    How many from U.S. And Europe? (none / 0) (#17)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 06:05:19 AM EST
    British government says when its citizens return to  the U.K. They will first be re-educated. I assume the U.S. has other plans.

    ddndwo (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ddndwo on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 02:11:29 AM EST
    thanks all

    Wedding Organizer

    Site violator. (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 06:05:57 AM EST
    Just because the dam is currently secured (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 07:38:46 PM EST
    Does not mean that ISIS won't keep attempting to create positions close to the dam to use for future attacks, those positions are being hit and will continue to be hit and should be Jeralyn. You seem so proud at times that ISIS aggressively attempts to take territory, then stunned that airstrikes near Mosul dam will continue to be conducted on them until further notice.

    hardly (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 08:32:50 PM EST
    "proud". I am not an ISIS supporter. I find their actions as abhorrent as everyone else. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand them, and more importantly, figure out why they appeal to so many. Their followers may have legitimate grievances that can be addressed. Focusing only the "atrocities" and unsubstantiated threats does nothing but create fear. On the other hand, if we make an effort to understand them and their appeal, we may be able to develop a strategy to  disempower them.

    I am very opposed to the U.S. using military force to defeat them, for all the reasons I've given previously. We should have learned by now, after Iraq and Afghanistan, that war is a losing proposition -- for us, especially.


    I think, in many ways, trying to (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Anne on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:27:23 PM EST
    understand ISIS is like trying to understand the scorpion, or the rabid dog.  Yeah, maybe we can learn why ISIS does what it does, or why people are drawn to them or support them, but I don't think in the end that it changes anything.

    Whether it's war on a micro-scale, or a macro one, it's not the answer - no one's been able to win in that region.  Our intervention just feeds the hate, brings more people to the cause, and makes life worse for people who just want the kinds of lives that don't involve drones and bombs and death and destruction.


    Not true (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:07:55 PM EST
    We have many allies in the region.  What a load Anne

    So, you're opposed to occupation/war, (none / 0) (#21)
    by Anne on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:09:47 AM EST
    and you agree that our occupation of Iraq bred hate: two things we agree on.  

    You think it takes social revolution - and I don't disagree; I don't believe the majority of the people in the region want to live the way they're living now.  But how does that happen?  Can you bomb people into that?

    As for our allies in the region...was that the answer all along?  How come nobody else figured that out?

    My main question about these allies?  How on earth can you count on them over the long haul?  

    I hate the atrocities as much as anyone; I hate even more that there is atrocity everywhere, of some kind, and we seem to be more interested in "new" atrocity than the kind that's been going on for years.  


    I think our recent intervention in Iraq (none / 0) (#9)
    by Green26 on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:17:41 PM EST
    is getting at least mild praise and support from multiple segments in Iraq. It isn't feeding the hate nearly as much as it is gaining us respect. Clearly, the humanitarian assistance is causing the recipients to be thankful. The Kurds are appreciative. Many segments of the Shiitte-Iraqis are at least mildly appreciative. Some Sunni-Iraqis too. Some of the bordering countries are appreciative. I assume even the Iranian soldiers fighting in the north with the Iraqi army and Kurds is appreciative of the US bombing efforts that are assisting their fight. World opinion seems to be mainly supportive.

    We aren't attempting to take over a country (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:06:28 PM EST
    Though Jeralyn like BushCo did, and I do not subscribe to a philosophy that we have done things that cause terrorists to attack us and those performing acts of terrorism aren't responsible for their choices.  We are interacting with all the global entities out there on this too.

    I don't think we should stand idly by while forces commit horrible atrocity.  I think such situations have to be weighed out by our leaders as well as possible consequences.  I won't be verbally threatened by murderers though and go run and hide under my bed or look the other way so long as they just aren't murdering me or mine, just everyone else.  


    I think the US ought to be learning now (none / 0) (#11)
    by Green26 on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:35:27 PM EST
    that pulling out of Iraq and doing very little in Syria is also a losing strategy.

    My view is that if Obama had listened to many of his advisors and kept 20,000 or so troops in Iraq,  provided more support in Syria to moderates, and backed up his talk with the Syrian president, that much of what is occurring now would not have happened.

    Keeping troops in Iraq and a closer eye on Maliki would have prevented him from immediately turning on the Sunnis literally the day after the US pulled out. The US should have forced Maliki to follow Iraq's constitution (which required more inclusion). The US should have forced Maliki to keep paying the Sunni sheiks who were part of the Awakening. Some of these people are apparently now part of ISIS. The US should have forced out Maliki several years ago. By keeping troops in Iraq and paying more attention, at least some of that would have been achievable. By not keeping troops in Iraq and keeping some amount of influence there, the US let the gain of the Surge and thereafter completely slip away.

    By not being more active in Syria, the US let ISIS gain strength and get further organized. By not immediately using airstrikes when ISIS came surging into the Mosul area, the US allowed ISIS to seize a very large amount of weapons and related supplies. It would not have been hard to spot and bomb the humvees, tanks and trucks heading for Syria.

    Now, the US has part of a foot in Iraq and is helping the Iraqi army and Kurds fight ISIS, but is stuck in and with a very complicated situation.

    I think Obama and the US are going to be forced into stepping up our involvement. I expect more intervention in Syria soon and continued and perhaps increased support in Iraq.


    And this is bull too (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 11:45:22 PM EST
    We had no business occupying Iraq.

    Current operations aren't about occupation.  Our occupation DID breed hate, and we are out of that THANK FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER!  Obama made all absolute right choices there!

    Very few in the Middle East want to live how ISIS plans to make everyone exist.  They are butchering other Muslims.  We are part of humanitarian efforts and that is exactly where we need to be and stay.

    Just because all the village sociopaths and psychopaths of the world can now discover each other on the internet, that doesn't call for a war.  What it does call for is a social evolution in the Middle East, and that's going to happen if we support but don't take responsibility for......


    Why do you insist on living in the past? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Green26 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 12:19:50 AM EST
    I'm looking at the MIddle East since 2008. I've stipulated many times on this site that invading Iraq was a mistake. It happened; it can't be undone. The US and the world just has to live with it, move on, and figure out what to do now.

    I'm talking about what the US is doing now in Iraq. It is getting far more praise and support, than it is breeding hate. Can you not have any discussion about the Middle East, without reverting to the Iraq invasion being a mistake.


    We are doing exactly what we need (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 12:35:22 AM EST
    To be doing right now

    I think so too (none / 0) (#27)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:40:15 AM EST
    Although, I'm tired of war in the Mideast (none / 0) (#29)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:26:48 AM EST
    I have to disagree with you. After seeing the VICE report on the Islamic State, I am convinced these people need to stopped. Dead. But I don't think we should be doing it alone. ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State, whatever the flavor of the week, is a danger to the region and the world. They are religious nuts and zealots and a cult of personality for Baghdadi.

    Unfortunately, the US bears much responsibility for their rise. We broke Iraq. Period. Like him or not, Saddam gave Iraq some semblance of stability. Like Tito did in Yugoslavia. Not everyone needs or wants "American democracy." It's just not in some folks DNA. And we have got to stop trying to force in on the world. We break a whole lot more than we fix with our meddling.

    But ISIS, these guys are evil incarnate. I support whatever means necessary to wipe them out.


    Speaking of atrocities (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jack203 on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:14:44 PM EST
    The media seems intent on downplaying or mischaracterizing the atrocities committed against the Sunnis.

    The execution of unarmed prisoners may not be as high profile as the ISIS beheadings.  But they're both brutal, both war crimes, and being committed by both sides.

    I read an article about 10 days ago with a headline something to the affect of ISIS TERROR on the RISE, and within the article they linked three events.  Two of the three events were atrocities committed by Shiites against Sunnis.  Obviously you cannot blame ISIS for that.

    One article is admittedly a small sample size.  But there is no denying the American media is on feeding frenzy mode against ISIS.  They did something similar against the Assad regime 2 years ago, but it's even worse against ISIS.

    I'm glad Obama is proceeding cautiously on this and not committing a full scale war on whoever the American media proclaims is the boogeyman of the month.

    A question... (none / 0) (#20)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:51:15 AM EST
    This would appear to be a letter by the President informing congress about what military action he is taking.

    That doesn't seem to me to be quite the same thing as seeking its approval or the approval of the people of the United States.

    It seems like a meaningless formality.
    Hello. I'm bombing.

    I don't know anyone who doesn't already know who he is bombing and the stated rationale.

    We don't need a letter.

    Has any member of Congress objected to (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:23:15 AM EST
    the apresident's letters?

    I have (none / 0) (#24)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:23:32 AM EST
    no idea how any particular member of Congress might react to this communication from the President.

    I was speaking from the point of view of a citizen.

    It seems to me, based on the text I read, that this is some gesture meant to lend an air of legitimacy to the bombing campaign. Or an air of inevitability.

    In any case, having read it, it did not appear to me to provide any information that isn't currently available on any newscast or newspaper in the country. So I assume it had some function other than providing information to congress.


    Educate Yourself (none / 0) (#26)
    by squeaky on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:35:39 AM EST
    Rather than feel despondent that Obama is once again trying to fool you, or cover up illegitimate acts, you may want to educate yourself on the War Powers Act.

    The letter, sent under the War Powers Act, is the third missive the president has delivered to Capitol Hill since he approved air operations in Iraq on Aug. 7.

    The Hill

    General Zinni (none / 0) (#23)
    by Uncle Chip on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:25:18 AM EST
    on Meet the Depressed on Sunday said that if the US put just two brigades of soldiers on the ground in Iraq right now and not wait they could drive ISIS back into Syria in a heartbeat.

    Zinni also said that he wished (none / 0) (#25)
    by Green26 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:29:26 AM EST
    the US "wasn't so paranoid about boots on the ground". He said the US can't even define it. With special ops and advisors, there are already boots on the ground.

    Zinni is a former marine general, head of CENTCOM, and special envoy to the Middle East.


    Saw that (none / 0) (#28)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:55:01 AM EST
    It caused an acid like flashback to "we will be welcomed as liberators"

    Driving the back into Syria (none / 0) (#30)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:33:08 AM EST
    is no solution. They will just regroup and re-energize. They need to be eliminated. Not driven back to anywhere, other than an early grave.

    I agree (none / 0) (#32)
    by Slado on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:39:54 AM EST
    and as GW says we shouldn't do it by ourselves.

    But unfortunately we ignored the problem until it got so big now it's hard to find a solution.

    President Obama could have been planning a reaction to ISIS for months if not a year but chose not to.   Now he is again scrambling to choose between a bunch of bad outcomes.

    Sounds familiar.


    I would like to think that (none / 0) (#31)
    by Slado on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:36:02 AM EST
    Obama's caution is part of some greater "strategy" but what evidence do we have that he ever has a "strategy"?

    I think Obama is frustrated that foreign policy is dominating his second term.  I think he really thought he'd ended the Iraq war, put the war on terrorism to bed and in a few months would have Afghanistan all wrapped up.   Now he's having trouble dealing with the reality that the world is getting more dangerous not less.

    I give him credit for being hesitant to use force in terms of "boots on the ground" but I don't give him credit for doing so based on some overall plan.

    To me he's making it up as he goes along.

    About the only foreign policy result that we can give him credit for is our withdrawal from Iraq.  That is something he set out to do and did.  

    In every other policy or action he's fumbled, bumbled his way to a result and then given reasons or excuses for why he eventually did what he did.


    On and on.  In and out.   Assad must go.   Chemical Weapons are a Red line.   Afghanistan is the good war.   Authorize a surge, then plan for our withdrawal.   Putin is isolate while he takes Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  These are just a few examples.

    The president has a world view that the US is not the world's police and in a way I agree with him.  However we have to live with the results when we withdraw our influence from certain regions of the world.    The world this president inherited was a world that did see us as the police.  

    Obama does not to me seem comfortable with this reality and I can understand it because to me we wasted a lot of time, money and human lives on the Iraq war and to some extent our over commitment to the war in Afghanistan.  

    However that doesn't change the reality of the world and now other world leaders see us as hesitant, unsure of ourselves and reluctant to do anything that will really change the outcome.

    So the results are Putin doing whatever he wants, Arab nations bombing Libya without even telling us, ISIS running a muck etc...

    It is simply not true that we didn't see ISIS coming.   The president for whatever reason chose not to confront this problem until he was forced to by events on the ground.   It was not just Hawks warning him that this could be in issue.   He was briefed long before he made the "JV" comments that this could be an issue.

    To me the president needs to decide does he want to officially withdraw us from all these events or does he want to get involved in a meaningful way.

    Right now we are in this weird middle ground of taking some action but never enough to make any real difference.   Unless you count Libya.  There we made a difference.  It was just a horrible one.

    So we'll see what he does.   Maybe he will get a coalition of the willing together and we'll confront ISIS and stamp the cancer out.

    I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

    NIce post, Slado. (none / 0) (#33)
    by Green26 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:43:11 AM EST
    I agree with most of what you said.