US begins airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - SEPTEMBER 23, 2014

The US and its international coalition partners began airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria on Tuesday morning.

The Pentagon’s Spokesperson, Rear Admiral John Kirby said that fighter jets, bombers and tomahawk missiles were used in the attack – which mainly targeted about 20 sites around the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Eastern Syria. IS captured the town in 2013.

The US has already carried out around 200 airstrikes against IS in Iraq and this morning’s attacks expands the campaign to dislodge the terror group in Syria as well.

About two weeks ago, US President Barak Obama said that there would be no safe havens for those who threaten America – lately IS, and so it seems to have been proved.

The attacks are a culmination of several weeks of planning as the US military identified targets in Syria and assessed the threat posed the Syrian government’s air defenses to coalition aircraft. US Secretary of State, John Kerry also went throughout the Middle East seeking political and military support from Arab states so as not to make it a US vs IS war.

Five Arab nations are reported to have participated in this attack in Syria.

The US will also be looking to train and equip moderate Syrian rebel groups, which have been fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad since 2011, to be able to confront IS. Previously, most of these rebels – which themselves are loosely united under the Free Syrian Army, could not be able to withstand IS and lost vast swatches of territory to the terror group.

The difference between the Iraq and Syrian airstrikes is that while the Iraq government invited the US and its partners to attack IS who had overrun most towns in Northern Iraq, in Syria the Assad regimes overtures for an alliance against IS had fallen on deaf ears.

The West accuses the Assad regime of gross human rights violations since the start of the Syrian Civil War and has been seeking ways to help local rebel groups to topple it.

IS, an off-shoot of Al Qaeda, follows an extreme form Islam and has frequently employed violence, mass executions and graphic beheadings against those its considers enemies of Islam including Christians, Yezidis and Shia Moslems whom it considers heretics.

It gained the US attention after it beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff recently.

Photo caption: A US warship launches a tomahawk missle. The Pentagon says these missles where used in airstrikes against IS in Syria. Image: squarespace.com