As US Congress Dithers, Obama Expands Bombing

U.S. warplanes bombed targets south-west of Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad on Monday, the Pentagon confirmed, marking the beginning of an expanded war against the militant faction known as the Islamic State (aka ISIS/ISIL) promised by President Obama in a national address last week.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense,” the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The airstrikes come as U.S. military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, testify before members of Congress on Tuesday to lay out their plans to increase the military campaign against the group that operates and controls territory on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border. In his address last week, Obama said that he wants to increase training and funding to local forces aligned against ISIS, which would include the Iraqi Army on its side of the border and other—what are term “more moderate” militias—fighting against ISIS inside Syria. The president also said that we will not hesitate to bomb targets inside Syria, despite the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (himself at war with ISIS) has said any such strikes would be considered an act of aggression.

According to Agence France-Presse:

Lawmakers are now considering what kind of financial support or legislative blessings to offer the president as the escalation ramps up. As the Guardian reports:

As those machinations take place in Congress, it remains to be seen whether Obama will receieve any serious pushback from lawmakers or the American public over his decision to lead U.S. troops back into a long-term engagement in Iraq. Critics of the president’s plan have spent the week since his address issuing warnings against the escalation.

Writing at Common Dreams on Monday, professor of history Lawrence Wittner, argued the situation does not demand U.S. military strength, but rather is a perfect moment for President Obama and Congress to show true global leadership by practicing restraint. According to Wittner:

And Nat Parry, an investigative journalist and author, says that when it comes to the potential bombing of Syria, President Obama and U.S. government would be in grave violation of international law if such attacks take place. In an essay that appeared on Common Dreams Tuesday morning, Parry says that, “one reason for the administration’s silence regarding the international legal basis for the possible use of force against ISIS in Syria is that none exists.”

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As Parry notes:

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