The BBC reported just minutes ago (it’s 10:00 PM est here) that the U.S. and other nations have begun conducting airstrikes inside Syrian territory against Islamic State targets. Here’s four quick reasons this matters and what it means:
1. It’s a violation of Syria’s sovereignty
Although the Syrian government certainly doesn’t mind Islamic State targets being bombed (the Syrian government is at war with them after all) the U.S. is also providing weapons to so called moderate rebels who are also fighting against the Syrian government. In the past, many of these weapons have fallen into the hands of Islamic State soldiers who defeated these moderates and took their weapons. However, it’s true, talk of sovereignty in chaotic Syria is mostly a mental exercise.
2. It’s a widening of the air campaign
While the U.S. and French forces have been conducting targeted bombing runs against Islamic State targets inside Iraq, that is a nation aligned with the U.S. in many ways following the nearly decade long war there. Eastern Syria is basically the wild West and it wasn’t three weeks ago that President Obama waived off any talk of bombing targets in Syria while many pundits said that doing so was absolutely necessary to defeat the Islamic State.
3. It has the potential to degrade Islamic State forces
The Islamic State has strongholds in Iraq but most of their strongholds are in Syria where they’ve battled Bashar al-Assad’s Syria government military for nearly two years as part of a civil war that’s brought incredible destruction. Disallowing safe havens for Islamic State forces would be key to any degradation or defeat of the organization.
4. Dead Syrian civilians are about to start appearing in the media
There can be no bombing campaigns without dead civilians. This is an absolute truth. In Iraq, the Islamic State has surrounded itself with civilians when it can to the point that, in some cases, the Iraqi military has been forced to disengage over worries that they’d be slaughtering their own people along with the enemy. Prepare yourself for these stories and images out of Syria. Civilian deaths will happen and they will be reported.
Here’s purported footage of the airstrikes.