The rapid escalation of the crisis in Iraq has drawn in the United States. On Thursday, an Islamist offensive succeeded in repelling the Kurdish Peshmerga from the Mosul Dam, at the same time ISIS militants closed in on Erbil — home to hundreds of U.S. advisors and personnel, as well as the leadership of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government.
Meanwhile, ISIS’s advance and a series of reported atrocities against Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority had stranded tens of thousands of members of the group atop a mountain near Sinjar, west of Erbil.
ISIS was carrying out an act of genocide at the same time it threatened the U.S.-allied leadership of Iraq’s last remaining bulwark of stability. The Obama administration felt it had no choice but to act.
As this map demonstrates, the U.S. is attempting to lessen the humanitarian crisis along the Syrian-Iraqi border while ensuring that Erbil doesn’t fall to ISIS’s advance. The aims are limited at the moment — the U.S.’s goal seems to be to stop ISIS’s offensive, rather than rolling it back.
But the U.S. is still militarily involved in one of the Middle East’s most urgent security and humanitarian crises. Barack Obama is now the fourth consecutive U.S. president to authorise strikes within Iraqi territory.
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