Washington announced last week that the U.S. is prepared to extend airstrikes into Syria against the Islamic State. In response, an ISIS supporter known as “Amir al-Thud” warned of possible attacks on the U.S. and its allies if military action continues. The message was posted on a militant Islamist online forum on the Minbar Jihadi Media website, and said that intervention in other people’s affairs would trigger a reaction of “the same strength” against America and “also the nations allied to it.”
President Barack Obama has called for a Western and Middle Eastern coalition to fight against the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL. The militant post stated that the author was sending a “sternly worded warning” to all the nations allied with America in their war against the Islamic Caliphate, saying that their international and local interests will be “legitimate targets.”
Yesterday a U.S. airstrike occurred southwest of Baghdad, the closest yet to the Iraqi capital since the start of the campaign against ISIS. U.S. Central Command issued a statement that said it was the first strike in “expanded efforts” to help the Iraqi defense against the militant group. The strike destroyed an Islamic State fighting position that had been firing at Iraqi forces.
Last month the U.S. began targeted airstrikes in Iraq against the militants to help support humanitarian positions and protect American personnel. Last week Obama said that new airstrikes would be launched to help Iraq’s forces take the offensive against ISIS, including targets in Syria. The president has asked for authorization from Congress to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, and allow the U.S. to accept support from other countries to back Syrian opposition forces.
The U.S. has already made more than 150 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that nearly 40 nations have pledged support to the fight against the militants. Recent reports from the Obama administration state that the U.S. Air Force will retaliate against Syrian air defenses if they attack American fighter jets that are launching airstrikes in Syria. Later the same day White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that if Syrian forces target American aircraft there will be “rules of engagement” related to military orders the president might issue.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated this morning that the U.S. is at war with the Islamic State militant group, and that the fight will not be a brief effort. He stated that destroying ISIL will require political progress in the region as well as military efforts. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said “it will take an army to beat an army,” also saying that Obama has downplayed the potential threat to American targets.
Hagel also said that if allowed to continue its actions unchecked, the Islamic State “will directly threaten our homeland and our allies.” No specific plots against U.S. targets have been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies, despite yesterday’s threatening post. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who is the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said that the ideology of ISIS is hostile to both the region and the world, and there is a “real risk” that the area it already controls could turn into a launching point for future terrorist action against both the U.S. and its allies.
With the Pentagon increasing forces in the region in recent weeks there are now about 1,600 U.S. personnel in Iraq. About 475 were sent only last week, including a headquarters group, advisers and troops to support spy plane missions.
It is unclear if the author of the threatening post on the militant website against the U.S. and its allies has any real influence on the actions of ISIS. The message, which used religious language, called on the people of the U.S. and its allies to oppose actions against the group.
By Beth A. Balen