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Decoded: Why US Was Reluctant On Striking Iraq

After US president Barack Obama’s nod to air strikes on northern Iraq, the US military has carried out several air strikes on militants to defend civilians in the area including a new one on Sunday.

After US president Barack Obama’s nod to air strikes on northern Iraq, the US military has carried out several air strikes on militants to defend civilians in the area including a new one on Sunday.

According to reports, US jet fighters and drones have destroyed armoured carriers and a truck that were firing on members of the Yazidi sect. This is the third round of US air strikes since they were authorised by Obama.

It should be noted that thousands of civilians fled into the mountains after the Islamic State (IS) overran the town of Sinjar a week ago.

The previous strikes targeted IS (formerly known as Isis) forces threatening the Kurdish city of Irbil.

A few weeks ago, when IS-led forces were advancing on the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, the US reinforced the protection of its embassy and also deployed manned and unmanned aircraft. For more than a month now the US has been flying some 50 sorties a day to build up a detailed intelligence picture of what is happening on the ground.

It had also established links into key Iraqi security headquarters so that this information can be processed and used if necessary. But the missing action was increasing the speculations of it being non-serious over the issue.

The White House has been reluctant to get drawn back into Iraq in military terms for they bore severe loss – monetary and life – due to their previous operations. Obama won presidential elections with a promise to extricate the US from foreign wars, not to begin new ones.

The problem is that the Iraqi military loses power to defend their own people and innocent lives are at stake. During its advance on Baghdad, IS fighters have plundered a significant quantity of heavy equipment and ammunition from the government’s forces. The Iraqi military units had simply melted away leaving behind their equipment.

The Kurdish north has the greatest degree of autonomy in the state. The Kurdish fighters may well be most in need of US support. The White House has been reluctant to arm the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for fear of accelerating the trend towards Kurdish independence – a move that would have widespread ramifications within the region.

Although the ISIS advance changed the mind of the US, it is still uncertain whether the extended support will go beyond air power to weaponry, ammunition, and logistics.

The IS militia has raised the cry of hoisting ISIS flags in the White House. The tense situation, which the US has been constantly monitoring, has increased the pressure on the White House.

How the reluctant Obama will cope, will be interesting to see.

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