Forces from the United States and five Arab states launched strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and affiliates of al Qaeda starting in September 2014, as part of a multinational campaign against Islamist militant groups, led by the United States starting in mid-2014.
The United States began surveillance missions on positions held by ISIL in Syria during September 2014. On September 10, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech indicating his intent to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIL, saying, "I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq."
On September 22, 2014, the United States and Arab partner states began to strike targets inside Syria. Some of those targets were not ISIL itself, as they also targeted the Khorasan group (a unit of al-Qaeda) around Aleppo and Raqqa.
- 1 Background
- 2 Preparations for air strikes
- 3 Air campaign
- 4 Nameless intervention
- 5 Turkish involvement
- 6 Foreign reactions
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Background[edit | edit source]
Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, peaceful protests in Syria against the Assad administration were suppressed and became violent. The Al-Nusra Front was established by the Islamic State of Iraq as the official branch of Al Qaeda in Syria. The Al-Nusra Front was eventually eclipsed by its own creator and al-Qaeda severed its ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
July 2014 rescue mission[edit | edit source]
Following the abduction of a number of foreigners in Syria, on July 4, 2014, U.S. air strikes were conducted against the ISIS military base known as the "Osama bin Laden Camp". At the same time, two dozen special operations members parachuted from helicopters near an ISIS building for high-valued prisoners. However, no prisoners were found in the building and the special forces members were soon engaged by ISIS forces from Ar-Raqqah and a three-hour firefight ensued. Eventually, U.S. forces came to the conclusion that the hostages were no longer at the site and abandoned the rescue attempt. At least 5 ISIS fighters were killed and a U.S soldier was wounded. Jordanian forces were also reportedly involved in the operation with one Jordanian soldier also wounded, but this was not confirmed. Later it was reported the hostages had been moved 24 hours before the attempted rescue. It remained unclear whether the operation failed due to bad intelligence or whether ISIS forces were alerted in advance of the mission.
Surveillance flights over Syria[edit | edit source]
On August 26, the U.S. began sending surveillance flights, including drones, into Syria to gather intelligence on ISIS targets in Syria. The flights started gathering intelligence that would aid any future U.S. airstrikes, however airstrikes were not yet authorized. No approval was sought from the Syrian Arab Republic for the flights entering Syrian airspace.
Arming the Syrian opposition[edit | edit source]
At the direction of President Obama, the American Central Intelligence Agency played an active role since the early stages of the Syrian Civil War. The U.S. originally supplied the moderate rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid but soon escalated to providing training, cash and intelligence to selected rebel commanders.
On September 17, the House of Representatives voted to authorize the executive branch to train and arm Syrian rebels against ISIS forces. One of the groups that United States intends to train and arm is the Islamist Army of Mujahedeen; the Harakat Hazm group is already being supplied by the United States. There are indications that the Army of Mujahdeen is still being vetted. The American plan to train at least 5,000 Syrian rebels is also yet to begin.
US state department spokesmen have stated that the airstrikes are coordinated with the FSA. A FSA spokesman stated that there was no current coordination, but it had been promised that it was forthcoming.
Preparations for air strikes[edit | edit source]
In his address to the nation on September 10, U. S. president Barack Obama announced his intention to bomb ISIS in Syria and to train rebels, with or without the consent of Congress. For the first time he authorised direct attacks against the militant group in Syria. In his address he said that the United States are going on offensive launching "a steady, relentless effort to take out" the jihadist group that has seized vast swaths of Iraq and has a large safe haven in Syria, "wherever they exist." Obama also announced creating of a broader coalition against ISIS.
Commenting on Obama's address, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich opposed the U. S. intervention against the ISIS "without the consent of the legitimate government" and said that "this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law". Ali Haidar, Syrian minister of national reconciliation, said that "any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria".
On September 17, the U. S. House of Representatives gave bipartisan approval to Obama's plan to train and arm the Syrian rebels in their fight against the ISIS. In a statement after the House vote, Obama said that the United States won't send military troops to Syria. The U. S. top military leadership approved Obama's plan on September 18. The Senate gave final congressional approval to Obama's proposal the next day.
The spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Jen Psaki, told that the United States didn't ask for Syrian permission to start the intervention or made coordinated actions with the Syrian government, but the United States warned Syria not to engage US aircraft. The United States didn't give any advance notification to the Syrians at a military level, or give any indication of our timing on specific targets. However, Syrian foreign ministry said that the United States did inform the Syrian envoy to the United Nations before launching airstrikes against the ISIS.
Before the airstrikes began, the United States informed Iran, the Assad government's largest regional ally, of their intention to launch airstrikes. They did not share specific timing or targets of the strikes with the Iranian government, who were concerned with whether the US would strike any Syrian government targets.
Air campaign[edit | edit source]
Multi-national airstrikes[edit | edit source]
On September 22, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed that the United States and other partner nations had undertaken strikes in Syria using fighters, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles authorized by President Barack Obama. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were identified as countries making or supporting airstrikes the first night. The initial strikes were coordinated by United States Central Command and targeted about 20 Islamic State targets, including headquarters buildings. Anti-Islamic State sources in Syria claimed that among the targets was also Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants had recently captured and targets in the towns of Tabqa and Tel Abyad in Raqqa province.
F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were reported to be among the U.S. aircraft striking targets in Syria on the first night of the campaign, carrying out their first combat missions since entering service in 2005.
On September 24, the United States and Arab partners conducted another round of airstrikes on Islamic State facilities in Syria. The airstrikes were targeting oil production facilities controlled by the Islamic State who had been using the oil in order to fund their activities. Some of the targets were apparently also mobile production facilities and those were most likely not refineries which other strikes targeted.
In a third round of airstrikes on the Islamic State on September 25, Arab partners lead the United States in strikes against militant-held oil facilities in northeastern Syria. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dropped 80 percent of the bomb tonnage in the third round of strikes, compared to other strikes in which the United States lead Arab partners.
On September 26, the United States carried out a fourth round of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Eastern Syria. The strikes were targeting IS heavy equipment and destroyed four of their tanks in the Deir ez-Zor Province.
In a fifth round of airstrikes in Syria on September 27, the United States lead strikes along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces in the Kobanê Canton of Syrian Kurdistan. The strikes destroyed two armored vehicles and an unknown amount of fighters in an area that had been put under siege by the Islamic State. The siege by the Islamic State had recently forced over 100,000 Syrian Kurds to flee across the border to Turkey.
On September 28 and 29, the United States carried out two rounds of strikes against IS positions across Syria in 4 provinces. Among the facilities targeted was the entrance to the largest gas plant in Syria, in the Deir ez-Zor Province, and and IS training camp and vehicles near an IS controlled grain silo in Manbij, Aleppo province.
In an eighth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 1, the United States and coalition partners struck Islamic State targets in Northern Syria. The daytime strikes targeted Islamic State forces laying siege to Kobane, a primarily Kurdish city in Syrian Kurdistan in support of the YPG and Free Syrian Army who are defending the city.
On October 2, the United States lead a ninth round of strikes along with the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an IS checkpoint near Kobane, damaged a tank north of Sinjar Mountain, destroyed a tank west of Raqqa, and multiple IS facilities east of Aleppo.
In a tenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 3, the United States, assisted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates struck Islamic State forces in Northern and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an IS garrison south of Al Hasakah, destroyed two tanks southeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroyed two modular oil refineries and a training camp south of Raqqa, and struck an IS building northeast of Aleppo.
On October 4, the United States lead an eleventh round of airstrikes along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes destroying an IS infantry unit, armored personnel carrier, and a vehicle south of Ayn al-Arab, destroying a tank and a vehicle southeast of Deir ez-Zor, damaging Taqba airfield and destroying an artillery piece near Raqqa, and destroying an IS depot and logistics complex south of Al Hasakah.
In a twelfth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 5, the United States carried out out three airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Central and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an IS bulldozer, two IS tanks and another IS vehicle northwest of Al Mayadin, and destroyed six IS firing positions and a large IS unit northwest of Raqqa.
On October 6, the United States carried out a thirteenth round of airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an IS tank near Taqba airfield west of Raqqa, destroyed two IS fighting positions south of Kobane, and destroyed an IS tank southeast of Deir ez-Zor.
In a fourteenth round round of airstrikes in Syria on October 7, the United States, assisted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes damaging multiple IS buildings west of Al-Hasakah, damaging a staging area and IED production facility northeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroying 3 IS armed vehicles, damaging one armed vehicle, destroying a vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery, destroying an IS tank, and an IS unit all around Kobane, and killing a small group of fighters southwest of Rabiyah.
On October 8, the United States lead a fifteenth round of airstrikes along with the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces across Syria. The US and the United Arab Emirates carried out nine strikes destroying an IS armored personnel carrier, four IS armed vehicles, an IS artillery piece, and damaged another IS armed vehicle around Kobane, striking an IS training camp and fighters northwest of Raqqa, and destroying an IS tank northwest of Deir ez-Zor.
In a sixteenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 9, the United States carried out nine airstrikes in the areas around the border town of Kobane that is under siege by IS forces. The US carried out six airstrikes south of Kobane that destroyed two IS-held buildings, one IS tank and one IS heavy machine gun along, an IS fighting position along with one large and two small IS units. Along with strikes south of Kobane, the US carried out three airstrikes north of Kobane which struck two small IS units and destroyed two IS-held buildings.
On October 10, the United States led a seventeenth round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Islamic State forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes destroying two IS training facilities, three IS vehicles, damaging an IS tank and striking two IS units around Kobane. The strikes also destroyed an IS armored vehicle staging facility east of Deir ez-Zor and struck a small IS unit northeast of Al Hasakah.
Strikes on Khorasan Group[edit | edit source]
One of the groups targeted by U.S. strikes is the Khorasan Group, a jihadist group of suspected al-Qaeda members who were alleged to have been plotting an attack against the U.S. and other Western nations. The strikes targeted Khorasan training camps, explosives and munitions production facilities, communications facilities, and command and control facilities. The group has been claimed to possess 'advanced' bomb making skills and their plot is claimed to involve a bomb made of a nonmetallic device such a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material. The group is reportedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a designated foreign terrorist by the U.S. State department. Intelligence officials expressed concern that the group may include militants who were taught by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the chief bomb maker for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who is known for his sophisticated bomb making techniques that nearly downed two Western airliners.
Later statements by government officials indicated that the threat of a plot may have been less severe than initially reported. One official indicated that "there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works", while another told The Guardian that "there was no indication of an imminent domestic threat from the group" at the time the United States began bombing.
Syrian government involvement[edit | edit source]
Syria's government did not request or approve the airstrikes, although it is fighting ISIS militants. Assad's military possesses sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, mostly near the capital of Damascus and the border with Israel, but not in ISIL controlled areas. Syria stated they were advised by the US the day before the air strikes. In a statement on September 23, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated that the U.S. did not request permission from Syrian authorities, nor did they coordinate their actions with the Syrian government, provide advance notification to the Syrian military, or give indication of timing on specific targets, but that they did notify the Syrian U.N. representative, which the Syrians confirmed. The Pentagon’s director for operations described Syrian military radar as “passive” during the air strikes, with no attempt to counter US aircraft. During the first night of attacks the United States' force deployed with HARM missiles as a precaution, uncertain as to how Syria's air-defense network would react.
Civilian casualties[edit | edit source]
On September 29, 2014, multiple groups including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo Media Center, and the Local Coordination Committees reported that U.S. strikes hit a grain silo in the ISIL-controlled town of Manbij in northern Syria, killing two civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 10 airstrikes, also targeting various parts of the province of Idlib, killed at least one child and six other civilians. The group has stated that at least 19 civilians have been killed so far in coalition airstrikes. The Pentagon reported that they had no evidence of any civilian casualties from airstrikes targeting Islamic militants in Syria. America has also acknowledged that its rules to avoid civilian casualties are looser in Syria than those for drone strikes elsewhere.
Nameless intervention[edit | edit source]
Unlike their coalition partners, and unlike previous America combat operations, no name has been given to the 2014 conflict in Syria by the American government. The decision to keep the conflict nameless has drawn considerable media criticism. American Servicemen remain ineligible for Campaign Medals and other service decorations due to the continuing ambiguous nature of the American Intervention.
Turkish involvement[edit | edit source]
NATO member Turkey has been entangled in the Syrian Civil War occurring right up to its border in several ways since the beginning. Turkey trained and armed members of the Free Syrian Army even before the start of the war, and has been involved in spillover incidents. However, Turkey has refrained from being a direct combatant.
On October 2, 2014, under increasing international pressure and a strong ISIL push right to the Turkish border, the Turkish Parliament authorised direct military involvement in both Iraq and Syria. The exact form of the involvement is unclear, but the approved activities included using military force in Syria and Iraq as well as opening bases in Turkey for coalition forces.
Kurds have accused Turkey of actually supporting ISIL, as the militants have been attacking Kurdish held areas that Turkey sees as a threat to its internal security. By early October 2014 ISIL and al-Nursra controlled eight border control points with Turkey, and were using these points to enter the safety of Turkey to organize military activities and seek medical aid. The coalition needs Turkey to shut down the flow of foreign fighters and weapons going into Syria and the flow of ISIL oil out.
Turkey lined up tanks on its southern border near the border city of Kobane pointed at ISIL forces in Syria. Turkey also holds sovereignty over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah 35 km inside Syria, where it maintains a small garrison.
Foreign reactions[edit | edit source]
- Australia – Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia, praised the strikes, saying that an international effort was needed in order to combat the Islamic State threat. However, the Australian Government has stated that is not likely to contribute forces to operations in Syria.
- Canada – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, stated that Canada would strike Islamic State targets in Syria if the Assad government gave approval.
- Ecuador – The Ecuadorian government opposes airstrikes in Syria without the government's consent.
- Iran opposes airstrikes in Syria without the government's consent.
- Netherlands – Mark Rutte, minister-president of the Netherlands, showed understanding for the strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and said that his government is currently exploring the options to contribute in the fight against IS.
- Russia – Alexander Lukashevich, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, opposed the U.S. intervention "without the consent of the legitimate government" and said that "this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law".
- Syria – A week before the missile strikes, Ali Haidar, Syrian minister of national reconciliation, said that "any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria". However, after the U.S.-led campaign began, the Syrian government struck a more conciliatory tone, with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem going so far as to suggest the airstrikes were an indication that Syria and the anti-ISIL coalition were on the same side.
- Syrian opposition – The leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is recognized to be the legitimate representation of Syria in opposition to the Assad government, called for airstrikes before the campaign against ISIL got underway. Hadi Bahra said strikes were needed to weaken ISIL, a faction in the inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War, so the Free Syrian Army and other moderate opposition forces would oppose Assad more effectively. However, many Syrian rebel groups have criticised the American airstrikes for targeting ISIS who are enemies of the Assad government while not also targeting Assad government forces, which could help government forces gain more ground.
- Turkey – The Davutoglu Government called on the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve measures that would grant extensive authority to the Erdoğan administration to launch military operations in both Syria and Iraq, including but not limited to sending troops across the border, although it is unclear whether the Turkish leadership intends to act on that authority. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged the establishment of a no-fly zone by the U.S.-led coalition in northern Syria.
- United Kingdom – On September 26, 2014 Parliament voted 524 to 43 to approve action inside Iraq.
- United Nations – Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, welcomed the airstrikes against militants in Syria, but noted that the involved parties "must abide by international humanitarian law and take all precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties".
- Venezuela – At the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations, President Nicolas Maduro stated that "It's President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government which have stopped the terrorists" and continued by saying "Instead of bombing and bombing, we must make an alliance for peace".
See also[edit | edit source]
- 2014 military intervention against ISIL
- American-led intervention in Iraq
- Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War
- Inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War
- Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)
- Overseas interventions of the United States
- Syria–United States relations
- Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (August 2014–present)
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