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Obama authorizes airstrikes against militants in Iraq

Obama: 'American Combat Troops Will Not Be Returning To Fight In Iraq'


WASHINGTON (AP) -- After years of resisting the pull of more Mideast conflicts, President Barack Obama is ready to return the United States to military action in Iraq, the very country where he accused his predecessor of engaging in a "dumb war."

The president's authorization of airstrikes against militants in Iraq threatens to upend his legacy as the commander in chief who ended the long, unpopular war which killed nearly 4,500 American troops. It also raises fresh questions about whether Obama's desire to end that conflict clouded his assessment of the risks of fully withdrawing U.S. troops, as well as his judgment about the threat posed by the Islamic extremists who have taken advantage of a vulnerable Iraq.

As he addressed a war-weary nation late Thursday, Obama insisted the U.S. was not moving toward another protracted conflict in Iraq.

"I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," he declared, while also announcing that U.S. military aircrafts had already completed airdrops of humanitarian aid to Iraqi religious minorities under siege.

To be sure, the actions unveiled by Obama are more limited in scope than the full-scale invasion of Iraq that he inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Yet the president's maneuvers in Iraq this summer underscore the difficulty in pulling back once the military edges into a tenuous security state. The central rationale for Obama's authorization for military strikes in Iraq is to protect American forces serving in the northern city of Irbil - including some of the same forces the president deployed earlier this summer to help train and assist Iraqi security forces struggling to contain the militants.

Obama also authorized the use of U.S. military strikes to help struggling Iraqi security forces protect civilians. He argued that the U.S. has a responsibility to take action to stop imminent massacres, echoing the rationale he used when the U.S. joined the 2010 NATO bombing campaign in Libya.

Both liberal and conservative interventionists have urged Obama to use similar logic to respond to Syria's civil war, in which more than 170,000 people have died, but he has resisted.

Aides cast Obama's authorization of airstrikes in Iraq as a reaction to a set of fast-moving developments on the ground. Over the past week, the Islamic State group has swept through areas in Iraq's north that are heavily populated by Christians and Yazidis, a people following an ancient religion who fled to the mountains to escape the extremists and are suffering without food and water.

While the situation may be evolving quickly, the conditions that returned the U.S. to the brink of military action in Iraq can be traced back months - or to the president's critics, even years.

As recently as January, Obama was publicly dismissive of the Islamic State group, which at the time was under the al-Qaida banner. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, he said comparing the upstart group to the terror network established by Osama bin Laden was like comparing a jayvee basketball team to an NBA squad.

"I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian," Obama said.

Even at the time, U.S. intelligence and defense officials were warning about the threat that could be posed by the Islamic State, which had strengthened in Syria amid the chaos of that country's bloody civil war. But Obama's comments reflected his limited appetite for wading back into Iraq or for starting a new military engagement in Syria, where he authorized an air assault last summer after a chemical weapons attack but never gave the order for a strike

Obama's critics draw a direct connection between that approach and his decision to withdraw all American troops from Iraq in late 2011. He did so in large part because Iraq's government refused to sign a security agreement providing U.S. troops immunity, but White House opponents say the president should have pushed harder for a deal in order to avoid the type of situation now unfolding in Iraq.

"We are already paying a very heavy price for our inaction, and if we do not change course, the costs of our inaction will only grow," Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a joint statement following Obama's remarks.

They called on Obama to extend his authorization of airstrikes against the Islamic State beyond Iraq and into Syria, a step administration officials said they were not prepared to take at this time.

For Obama, the threat of undermining his own legacy on Iraq could hardly come at a worse time.

His overall approval ratings have plummeted, as has the public's opinion of his foreign policy. And he has faced a barrage of questions about his ability to influence world events, from Russia's provocations in Ukraine to the latest round of clashes between Israel and Hamas.

Yet in a sign of his continued wariness about the effectiveness of military action, Obama made clear that even if he did inject U.S. airpower into Iraq, it would not solve that nation's myriad problems.

"There's no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq," he said.


Editor's Note: Julie Pace has covered the White House for the AP since 2009. Follow her at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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buckeye3118 August 08 2014 at 5:26 AM

Not to worry, the PopStar MESSiah worshipping slobbering media won't mention that he declared the war to be over 2 years ago.

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coopdabomb August 08 2014 at 5:38 AM

Everyone knew this would happen when he pulled the troops out a few years ago.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
bookbuyer1 August 08 2014 at 5:24 AM

Beware to those who Obama has promised anything. I voted for him. Now I don't believe him or trust him.It is not hard to find examples/proof of his repeated outright lies

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Poppiexno bookbuyer1 August 08 2014 at 1:35 PM

Welcome to reality. Glad to see that you do indeed have a brain and can think

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
armramirez Poppiexno August 08 2014 at 2:51 PM

I still believe in him and would vote for him again. I will not fall into the Tea Party propaganda that has even Democrats doubting themselves.

Flag 0 rate up
Darren August 08 2014 at 5:10 AM

what an idiot, we cant fight everyones battle for them and lose more of our men and women, he was supposed to withdraw troops what a jackass. I say we send him and his butt ugly wife to Iraq on a 1 way ticket

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
kelprey Darren August 08 2014 at 5:24 AM

I agree with you, he should not do this, but attacking his family and disrespecting our president is not going to help. Intelligent ideas and prayer because this is a serious situation please.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
3 replies
tmccull52 August 08 2014 at 5:34 AM

Time to queue up the Mighty Mouse theme song, Iraq!

Mister Trouble never hangs around, when he hears this mighty sound!

"Here I come to save the day!"

That means King Barack is on the way.

Yes, sir, when there is a wrong to right, King Barack will talk a fight. On the sea or in the land, he'll lend the Muslims a helping hand.

So though we are in danger, we never despair. To the Muslims he's no stranger. He is there! He is there! On the land! In the sea! In the air!

Muslims need not worry at all, he will always heed their call.

"Here I come to save the day!"

That means King Barack is on the way!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jsinvent August 08 2014 at 5:37 AM

A real leader would have put muslim army down before it had time to grow into a massive Army to kill Christians. Now 40.000 mostly Christians are running for their lives to the top of a Mountain. Obama you own it for you lack of leadership and sidding with the Muslims everytime.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
Poppiexno jsinvent August 08 2014 at 1:39 PM

The insurgents in Iraq are a dangerous lot. O should have acted much sooner. One wonders how effective we will be. Is this being done merely for show?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
armramirez jsinvent August 08 2014 at 2:58 PM

Your answer then continuous war, more American casualties, in a foreign country we are not welcome at. Our value our military more than that.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Bill Jake armramirez August 08 2014 at 3:24 PM

2 bombs, of course it is. How about the 120.000 in Syria and the Genocide of thousands of christians. That,s right it;s not the poor little palistian boy getting slapped around for throwing stones at the IDF

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airamrka August 08 2014 at 5:56 AM

Where was this idiot when the Iraqi government was pleading for this? There were the terrorists marching down the highway in a nice lil' line and nothing.

How the heck were so many, so stupid to have elected this thing once? And, just to remove any doubt about their stupidity, they went and did it again.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
jrb359 airamrka August 08 2014 at 6:02 AM

Definition of insanity is do repeat the same process and expect a different result! All he had to do to get elected twice was to tell the lies that people wanted to hear!

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1 reply
airamrka jrb359 August 08 2014 at 6:35 AM

Amen jrb359. I truly believe it was insane.

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jsinvent August 08 2014 at 5:38 AM

Obama's poll numbers made him act.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
coopdabomb August 08 2014 at 6:35 AM

Now they will be using our own weapons against us thanks to the clown in chief and his piss poor administration.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
kcarthey coopdabomb August 08 2014 at 8:01 AM

They have been since these wars started back in 2002. Are you forgetting that Reagan armed Iraq against Iran and the Taliban against Russia? I'd hate to know how many Americans have been killed by Reagan supplied weapons.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jsinvent August 08 2014 at 6:13 AM

The Muslim Holy War is ON.

Christians, Jews, no believers Beware

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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