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US expands air strikes to Iraq Sunni Arab heartland

world Updated: Sep 08, 2014 00:58 IST
Yashwant Raj

As the United States expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIS) in Iraq, President Barack Obama said on Sunday he will be announcing the next phase of the fight in a speech later this week.

“We are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIS,” Obama said in an interview on Meet the Press, a Sunday talk show on NBC. “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat them.”

The New York Times said the planned speech suggests that Obama may be moving closer to a decision on whether to expand the month-old air campaign against ISIS into Syria,

It’s been hitting ISIS only in Iraq, expanding its mission, in the latest development, to carry out airstrikes around Haditha Dam, to prevent it from falling into the hands of ISIS fighters.

“We will continue to conduct operations as needed in support of the Iraqi security forces and the Sunni tribes, working with those forces securing Haditha Dam,” said the Pentagon.

Though ordered initially to protect Mosul Dam from ISIS, US airstrikes have spanned out in expanded action to end the ISIS siege of Mt Sinjar and Amirli. Now Haditha Dam.

But in his interview Obama was clear, once again, the new phase will not involve American boots on the ground. “This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war,’ Obama said.

“What this is is similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in over the last five, six, seven years.”

Read: Iraq air strike kills 7 in hospital near Kirkuk