WASHINGTON, Sept 6, (AFP): The United States carried out two more airstrikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, the military’s Central Command said Saturday. The raids were carried out Friday and Saturday and involved a “mix of a attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft,” it said in a statement. The strikes destroyed four Humvees, one armored personnel carrier and two trucks belonging to IS fighters, according to Centcom. A Humvee and truck used by the militants were also damaged.
The strikes bring to 133 the total carried out across Iraq since August 8. “The strikes were conducted under authority to protect US personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts, and support Iraqi forces that are acting in furtherance of “I did not get any resistance or pushback to the basic notion that we have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organization that is causing so much chaos in the region and is harming so many people and poses a long-term threat to the safety and security of NATO members,” Obama said at the summit conclusion. “So there’s great conviction that we have to act, as part of the international community, to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and that was extremely encouraging.” Laying out a strategy for Iraq, Obama hinted at a broader military campaign, likening it to the way US forces pushed back al-Qaeda along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, taking out the group’s leadership, shrinking its territory and pounding at its militant followers.
To do that, the US used persistent airstrikes, usually by CIA drones. So far, US airstrikes in Iraq have been largely limited to helping Kurdish forces and protecting refugees. But Obama has set a goal of dismantling and destroying the Islamic State, and said Friday that the US will continue to hunt down the militants just as it did with al-Qaeda and with al-Shabab in Somalia. Secretary of State John Kerry heads to the Middle East next week, and he expects to expand the coalition beyond Western nations.
Said Obama: “I think it is absolutely critical that we have Arab states and specifically Sunni-majority states that are rejecting the kind of extremist nihilism that we’re seeing out of ISIL, that say that is not what Islam is about and are prepared to join us actively in the fight.” The Islamic State group espouses a radical form of Sunni Islam and initially invaded Iraq to fight its Shiite government. “What we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can’t do us harm,” Obama said. He added that US ground troops in Syria are not needed to accomplish the goal, but instead can work with moderate partners on the ground in the country.
Support “They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned. And that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively,” Obama said. In a meeting with the foreign and defense ministers from the coalition countries, Kerry said leaders need a clear idea about what each country will contribute to the fight. And, while noting that many won’t be willing to engage in military strikes, he said they can instead provide intelligence, equipment, ammunition or weapons.
The United States and Iran have denied plans for any military coordination in the fight against Islamic State militants operating in Iraq and Syria. “We are not going to coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran and have no plans to do so,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday, reacting to reports that Tehran had approved such an arrangement. Harf said that Washington was “open to engaging” with Iran as it had in the past on select issues, notably on Afghanistan in late 2001, when the two sides worked to put Hamid Karzai into power after the fall of the Taleban. “But we will not be coordinating our action together,” she added.
The BBC reported, citing unnamed sources in Tehran, that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the US in the fight against the Islamic State.
In a brief statement on Iranian state media, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham denied the report. “Iran’s stance has already been declared and this news is not correct,” she added. US and Iranian officials met earlier for a second day in Geneva as they work toward hammering out a full deal on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program ahead of a November deadline.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations in more than 30 years, but in the past year have seen a bit of a rapprochement as they work on the nuclear deal. A US senator said Friday that Americans who join, support or fight with Islamic State should lose their US citizenship, and said he would introduce legislation to bar anyone who does so from returning to the country. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and conservative firebrand who is seen as a likely 2016 presidential contender,- said he would introduce his “Expatriate Terrorist Act” on Monday, the first day Congress is back from its five-week August recess.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans on Monday to strip suspected Islamist militants of their passports temporarily, to combat the threat posed by radicalized Britons returning from Syria and Iraq. Although the fate of Cruz’s measure is uncertain in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Islamic State’s advances and reports of brutality, including the videotaped beheading of two US journalists, have increased pressure on Congress to support efforts against the militant Sunni group.