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lunes, 22 de septiembre de 2014


The US just started bombing Syria. This Syrian man is live-tweeting the strikes as they hit.

American Air Force F-15 jetsKoichi Kamoshida/Getty
The US is now launching its first-ever air strikes in Syria against the terrorist group ISIS, the Pentagon announced at about 9:30 pm EST, revealing that the US military is "using a mix of fighter, bomber, and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" along with the air forces of Middle Eastern allies.
But the news was actually broken 30 minutes earlier by a Syrian Twitter user in the city of Raqqa, where ISIS has its headquarters, who heard the strikes and speculated — correctly, it turned out — that this was the beginning of the American air campaign. The Twitter user, named Abdulkader Hariri, posted that "massive" explosions had rocked ISIS headquarters, and that the skies were full of war planes and drones. Here are his tweets, which are chilling to read:
The air strikes are a major escalation for the United States against ISIS, which has effectively erased much of the border between Iraq, where the US has been bombing it for weeks, and Syria, where Obama has been more reticent to intervene. Here also is an eerie video, quickly posted by the Syrian activist news agency Step, that purports to show those first strikes over Raqqa.

These tweets and videos, posted by Syrian activists bearing witness to American strikes in their backyards, are only going to get more common as the US air campaign accelerates.

The US has launched a campaign to destroy ISIS

On September 10, the United States announced a comprehensive strategy for destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. The campaign centers an expanded air war against ISIS in both countries and the provision of arms and training to local allies on the ground — the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga, and "moderate" Syrian rebels.
This didn't come out of nowhere. On August 7, President Obama announced that he had authorized the US military to launch air strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq if they threatened the Kurdish capital of Erbil or the thousands ofcivilians that were trapped on Mount Sinjar, both in northern Iraq.
The ISIS militants had pushed into once-secure Kurdish territory and surrounded thousands of civilians, who are members of an ethno-religious minority known as Yazidis, on a mountain where they lack food and water. The siege of Mount Sinjar has since been broken, and US-Kurdish-Iraqi cooperation has pushed ISIS back from its early-August high point.
Obama's new strategy dramatically expands the original air war. The airstrikes in Iraq are no longer limited to limiting risks to US citizens or ending a humanitarian crisis: they'll be all over Iraq, wherever the US wants to hit ISIS. Moreover, the air campaign will extend into Syria. "I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama said in his September 10th address. "That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq."
Tony Avelar/Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
The airstrikes aren't the only new major move in the plan. Obama is sending 475 new American troop to train Iraqi forces, on top of the roughly 1,000 troops he had already deployed. Ideally, this should counter the discipline and effectiveness problems that the Iraqi army saw in places like Mosul. The influx of new weapons will be particularly useful to peshmerga, who often have been outgunned by the advanced American weaponry ISIS captured from the Iraqi army.
These efforts will also be expanded to groups of Syrian rebels the US thinks it can work with. Obama has asked Congress to quickly authorize and fund an (at least) $500 million train-and-supply mission for the Syrian rebels. Though Obama has long been skeptical of Syrian rebels, worrying that it'd be hard to help them without tacitly helping ISIS, the theory is that the US can't push ISIS out of Syria without allies on the ground. Since the US doesn't want to ally with ISIS's other enemies, like al-Qaeda in Syria or Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the rebels are America's only option.
This is a significant shift for the conflict, and for Obama.
Multiple reports have said for some time that the Iraqi government has been quietly requesting American military aid in the form of drone strikes against ISIS. But because the US had limited intelligence in Iraq early in the crisis, and wanted to stay out of the Syria war, it was difficult for Obama to start bombing ISIS accurately. After months of intelligence-gathering in Iraq, things are now different.
Obama had also long resisted getting involved in Iraq on political grounds, worrying that if the Iraqi government didn't reverse former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's persecution of Shias. "Absent Sunni buy in, [ISIS] will be hard to dislodge," a senior administration official said after Obama announced the Kurdistan bombing campaign. "Part of the reason we're focused on the Iraqi government is if we get a more inclusive government that opens the way to broader support."
Obama believes that new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government will be more inclusive, though it hasn't proven that yet. And as for Syria, the administration now believes it has sufficient intelligence on the rebel groups to be able to support non-jihadi, more moderate groups in their fight against ISIS. These factors, together with ISIS's alarming persistence in Iraq and murder of two American journalists, likely explain why Obama is escalating so seriously now.

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