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The U.S. military has conducted what it referred to as “a targeted airstrike” in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. President Obama said the strike was paired with “a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water.”

The U.S. military has conducted what it referred to as "a targeted airstrike" in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In a statement made last night, President Obama said: "When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That’s my responsibility as commander-in-chief. And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action. That is our responsibility as Americans.  That’s a hallmark of American leadership.  That’s who we are."

Obama said he authorized two operations in the country – "targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death."


According to a Department of Defense statement issued this morning:

At about 6:45 a.m. EDT, two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Kirby said, adding that ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the city, where U.S. personnel are located.

The decision to strike was made by Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, under authorization granted him by the commander in chief, the admiral said.

“As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities,” he added.

In a White House conference call today, an unnamed senior administration official explained the rationale for the attack:
This is consistent with what [Obama] said back in June, when ISIL had begun its advances in Iraq.  He made clear then, as he made clear tonight, that the safety and security of our personnel and facilities is a top priority in Iraq, as it is around the world. This principle applies, of course, to our personnel in Erbil.  It would also apply to our personnel and facilities, including our embassy in Baghdad.  So if we see actions anywhere in Iraq that threaten our personnel or facilities, we stand prepared to take targeted action to protect them.  And, again, this is a dynamic situation that we will continue to monitor, and as we see the need to take that action, he has authorized the military to do so.
According to CBS News:
ISIS has taken on Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters in northern Iraq this week and extended the borders of its self-declared "Islamic State" or caliphate, which spans across a vast swath of eastern Syria and Western Iraq.

In territory they have seized, they al Qaeda splinter group has been enforcing its own strict version of Islam, executing non-Sunni Muslims who refuse to convert or leave their homes, and committing a host of atrocities to instill fear into their enemies -- a strategy which has facilitated their rapid advance in the region. Many towns and key locations have simply been abandoned by Iraqi or Kurdish forces as ISIS militants advance; their reputation precedes them.

As one of the Obama administration officials put it to CBS News on Thursday evening: "It is their mission to ethnically cleanse areas of anyone that it disagrees.... (ISIS) is so ruthless, quite literally putting people's heads on spikes as a sign of the fate of anyone who would resist them."

A version was originally posted at Wonky News Nerd.

 

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