President Obama’s Wednesday speech announced a major escalation of the new war on ISIS, including expanding the conflict into neighboring Syria. So far, however, it hasn’t meant any changes on the ground.
That’s not going to be the case for long. according to officials familiar with the situation, who expect a much more aggressive array of US airstrikes against targets inside Iraq to begin as soon as next week, with the expansion into Syria likely not to happen for awhile.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed this, saying the war is about to enter a “more aggressive” phase and shift to more offensive strikes, though he did not offer a specific timetable for this.
The attacks have a potential for blowback, and while officially most are endorsing the escalation, Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri warned the US against any airstrikes that put civilian lives in jeopardy.
That’s a tall order, with ISIS holding some heavily populated areas, and not much good intelligence about who is on the ground and where. The US escalations are sure to mean civilian deaths, and to the extent those deaths are publicized, it risks alienating Iraqis, particularly the Sunni Arab minority which is in the direct line of fire.