My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the “Islamic State.”
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, 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. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work – and Iraq has formed a government – we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back – America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.
Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
"Let’s make two things clear; ISIL is not islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents. And ISIL certainly is not a state. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple." —Barack Obama
In an interview yesterday with Iowa-based broadcaster Steve Deace, Carson said the powers of the executive branch are growing “because if somebody refuses to cooperate, you just pull the noose on them. That’s basically the way a lot of communist countries work, that’s been happening to us over the last several years and most of us are completely unaware of it.”
“The best way to curb that is you get somebody in office who actually understands the separation of powers and is not trying to become a dictator,” he said.
In a Wednesday interview with Andy Parks of the Washington Times, Carson said that ISIS could be easily defeated in no time but President Obama refuses to do it.
“I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many of our top military people, these are smart people and they are terrific when it comes to strategy. They’ve offered these strategies to the administration, they just have not been accepted. We could get rid of those people in no time at all,” Carson said. “It’s having the will to do it. It’s just like with the border, we could seal the border if we have they will to don’t it. We have the ability to do it, we just don’t have the will.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Starnes: Obama Won't Confront ISIS Because He Is 'Accommodating The Islamic Faith At The Expense Of All Other Faiths'
Todd Starnes called into Alice Stewart’s radio show today to discuss a report from Fox News claiming that President Obama had been briefed on ISIS for over a year but took no action, with Starnes citing this report as evidence that Obama is refusing to confront radical Islamic groups because he favors Islam over Christianity.
Stewart warned that Obama is letting militant groups rise throughout the Middle East as “just the first step in the Islamification of America” and Starnes agreed, saying that “this may very well be the subject of my next book.”
"The soft targets in this country are the churches," Starnes said, "and we do know that the terrorists are living among us; it’s just a matter of when they are going to strike and who they’re going to strike. If nothing else, and this is going to be a very controversial statement, but looking at the evidence we have, this president’s administration seems to be accommodating the Islamic faith at the expense of all other faiths and that is a troubling thing. This needs to nipped in the bud. The president needs to put on the big boy pants and he needs to do the job that he was elected to do, which is to protect our country from the bad guys."
"This is the worst example of bullying of Christians there is," Stewart added, "and we have no strategy whatsoever to deal with it":
h/t; Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle has no credentials in national security, terrorism or international policy and she never seems to have spent one minute in military service. But that’s no reason not to play an expert on how to handle ISIS on Fox News.
On yesterday’s The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld – another Fox talking head without a single credential qualifying him to make pronouncements about such a serious subject – seemed to view ISIS as just another excuse to smear President Obama, talk tough and bang the drum for a new war. With other people doing all the fighting and dying, of course:
Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town… It’s time to dispense with political correctness and get over being nice. Nice equals death. …And if our president isn’t up to it, then find someone who is. Hell, maybe it’s better if he stays on the course – for good.
Then it was Guilfoyle’s turn. Surprise! She also saw it as an excuse to smear Obama and talk tough about a new war! One that she didn’t mention serving in.
There should be no mercy involved because they (ISIS) have shown none. That’s the only language that they understand. …I really think there’s just really one right answer here. We can talk about the ways to get it done – air strikes, certainly – but it’s gonna take more than that. We’ve already got troops on the ground. We already need help from our U.K. and European allies and counterparts.
I mean, can I just make a special request on the magic lamp? Can we get, like, Netanyahu and, like, Putin in for 48 hours, head of the United States? I don’t know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right so that Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific, like ISIS.
Nothing says “patriotic American” like demanding military action and wishing someone else were president!
Watch Fox’s latest ISIS “experts” below, via Media Matters.
One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century
Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham baselessly suggested that Muslims aren’t condemning the violent tactics employed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), though in reality many prominent Muslim voices have strongly denounced the group.
Recent news reports have documented shocking acts of terror that have made ISIS the “most feared organization in the Middle East.” The group has warned Christians that they must either “convert to Islam or die,” and according to Secretary of State John Kerry, its “grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide.”
During an August 11 conversation about ISIS’ threats against Iraqi Christians with the National Review's Nina Shea, Laura Ingraham claimed that few, if any, Muslims have spoken out against the group:
INGRAHAM: And it would be nice if more in the Muslim world coming out and condemning what the Islamic State is doing. You’re not hearing enough of those voices, if any. I mean, where are those people?
But in reality, many Islamic leaders have strongly denounced ISIS, and thousands more Muslims have gathered to promote messages of peace.
Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned ISIS’ threats against Christians in Iraq, saying the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” is a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” In an interview with Reuters, Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, similarly decried ISIS’ threats against Christians and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community: “Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization.”
In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called ISIS’ actions “un-Islamic and morally repugnant.” CAIR noted that the group’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented” and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. The Muslim Council of Great Britain’s Shuja Shafi also said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.”
BREAKING: President Barack Obama has announced airstrikes and airdrops against #ISIS if they strike against US’s interests. #Obama #Iraq
— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem)August 8, 2014
Obama says ‘today America is coming to help’ Iraqis targeted by ISIS http://t.co/Min8COZti9— NBC News (@NBCNews)August 8, 2014
Obama: “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in #Iraq.”— T.J. Holmes (@tjholmes)August 8, 2014
President Obama is putting emphasis on “empowering” Iraqi citizens to prevent future situations.— USA TODAY (@USATODAY)August 8, 2014
Obama: “i will not allow” the US “to be dragged into another war in Iraq.” there will be no ground troops, Obama says— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan)August 8, 2014
Obama: ‘We support our allies when they are in danger’ http://t.co/wvVteHN4KR— NBC News (@NBCNews)August 8, 2014
"Today, America is coming to help," Obama says of Iraq. Emphasizes no US ground troops. Only targeted strikes/humanitarian aid for Yazidis.— jennifer bendery (@jbendery)August 8, 2014
BREAKING UPDATE: Pres. Obama: Airstrikes authorized against ISIS to prevent genocide, protect American interests: http://t.co/081FkM5NC7— ABC News (@ABC) August 8, 2014
Obama: American combat troops will not be sent back to Iraq.— U.S. News (@usnews) August 8, 2014
Seems important to note: Obama is authorizing targeted air strikes to protect Americans specifically IF ISIS moves toward Irbil.— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) August 8, 2014
Obama also addressed post-9/11 America in remarks about the Central Intelligence Agency. “We tortured some folks,” he said. “We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.”
This isn’t the first time Obama has said that the US tortured people but the usage of “folks” immediately set tongues wagging. Presumably it’s because “folks” is far more humanizing than “detainees” or “enemy combatants”. The US did torture people (real flesh-and-blood human people) after 9/11, and it’s good that Obama says so—even if he was just trying to get off the topic of his CIA admitting to spying on Congress.
For a long time it was incredibly controversial to call “enhanced interrogation” torture. It’s a sign of progress that no one batted an eye at the “torture” bit and instead focused on the “folks” part. To their credit, even conservatives have come around to using the dreaded T word.
I am stunned our President just said “we tortured” people from the podium. This is a PR victory for our enemies. Make it stop. Make it stop.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) August 1, 2014
Typical week in the Obama Administration: conservatives labeled ‘a**holes’ terrorists labeled ‘folks’— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) August 1, 2014
Barack Obama is an inexperienced “celebrity” community organizer/campaigner-in-chief who won’t stop apologizing for America and was only elected president because of The Decemberists.
On Friday’s edition of The Young Turks, host Cenk Uygur let fly with a scathing critique of Fox News host Sean Hannity, who made waves this week by coming unglued and shouting down a Palestinian guest on his show.
Uygur noted after playing some of the Hannity segment that “if you support Palestinians or are worried about civilian deaths in Gaza” on Fox News, you are “sympathizing with the terrorists.”
He went on to charge that Hannity intentionally cut off, interrupted and contradicted guest Yousef Munayyer, so that when he got a rise out of Munayyer, he could point to him and say, “See? Angry Muslims. That’s how they are, they’re full of rage.”
Uygur said that Hannity is “a big blockhead. I mean, it’s, he has no logic, he has no rationality, it’s super-easy to dismiss him.”
When asked if he would ever appear on Hannity’s show, Uygur said, “I’m not gonna ask to be on his show. If he wants to have me on, great, I’ll kick his ass all day long.”
“If he doesn’t have the power to cut your mic,” he went on, “you think that pussy could ever dare to get in a real debate where he doesn’t control the mic?”
From the 07.25.2014 edition of TYT Network’s The Young Turks:
Michele Bachmann on OCU's Faith and Liberty: "Children With Ebola And People From 'Terrorist Nations' Part Of Immigrant 'Invasion'"
During her stop on Wednesday’s edition of “Faith & Liberty,” Rep. Michele Bachmann not only outlined her inflammatory anti-gay conspiracy theories and reasons why she supports impeaching President Obama, but also weighed in on the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border.
“People from Yemen, Iran, Iraq and other terrorist nations are making their way up through America’s southern border because they see that it’s a green light, they can easily get in,” the Minnesota Republican warned. “Not only people with potentially terrorist activities, but also very dangerous weapons are going to cross our border in addition to very dangerous drugs, and also life-threatening diseases, potentially including Ebola and other diseases like that.”
Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey, who like Bachmann has spoken out against vaccinations, also stoked fears about the completely bogus threat of Central American children carrying Ebola.
“This is madness,” she said.
Bachmann went on to claim that Obama is deliberately inviting child migrants into the country in order to establish a Democratic voting bloc, a theory also recently articulated by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, and begin “transforming America into a Marxist economic model.”
“What he is doing by opening up this southern border, frankly, he is establishing a permanent political class that will vote for a big government mentality that will continually offer welfare decency programs,” she said, arguing that it is all part of a Saul Alinsky-inspired plot to bring communism to America.
The congresswoman argued that the House should move to defund the executive branch and impeach Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson over the “invasion” of child migrants, asserting that the children will bring diseases into the country and undermine the nation.
“We have this invasion because a political decision was made by our president to intentionally flaunt the laws of the land and put at risk the American people, our culture, our way of life, our economic standing, and also he’s willing to allow a pandemic of disease to come into our country,” she said.
Justin’s Political Corner: On OCU’s Faith and Liberty, Bachmann calls for the impeachment of President Obama
Justin’s Political Corner: During her guest stint on Faith and Liberty, Homophobe extremist Michele Bachmann says that “gays want adults to prey on children”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
FLASHBACK: In the 2002 #GASen election, outgoing Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) distastefully smeared triple amputee veteran and then occupant Max Cleland (D) in an ad by comparing him to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Sadly, Chambliss’s smear propelled him to a victory.
Thankfully, this rotten asshole’s leaving office after this year, and better yet, this seat should hopefully go back to the Blue column with a Michelle Nunn win this November as just desserts for this ad in 2002.
BAGHDAD (AP) — The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of northeastern Syria and huge tracts of neighboring Iraq formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state on Sunday and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.
With brutal efficiency, the Sunni extremist group has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state. But the declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions that formed a loose alliance in the blitz across Iraq and impact the broader international jihadist movement, especially the future of a-Qaida.
The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state, and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization’s control, to swear loyalty to al-Baghdadi and support him.
"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio statement posted online. “Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”
Al-Adnani loosely defined the Islamic state’s territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala — a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under the Islamic State’s control. He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.
Muslim extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic state, or caliphate, that ruled over the Middle East, much of North Africa and beyond in various forms over the course of Islam’s 1,400-year history.
It was unclear what immediate impact the declaration would have on the ground in Syria and Iraq, though experts predicted it could herald infighting among the Sunni militants who have joined forces with the Islamic State in its fight against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite-led government.
"Now the insurgents in Iraq have no excuse for working with ISIS if they were hoping to share power with ISIS," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an analyst who specializes in Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, using one of several acronyms for the Islamic State. "The prospect of infighting in Iraq is increased for sure."
The greatest impact, however, could be on the broader international jihadist movement, in particular on the future of al-Qaida.
Founded by Osama bin Laden, the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. has long carried the mantle of the international jihadi cause. But the Islamic State has managed to do in Syria and Iraq what al-Qaida never has — carve out a large swath of territory in the heart of the Arab world and control it.
"This announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qaida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause,” said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, in emailed comments. “Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of (the Islamic State), largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality.”
Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, took the reins of the Islamic State in 2010 when it was still an al-Qaida affiliate based in Iraq. Since then, he has transformed what had been an umbrella organization focused mainly on Iraq into a transnational military force.
Al-Baghdadi has long been at odds with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, and the two had a very public falling out after al-Baghdadi ignored al-Zawahri’s demands that the Islamic State leave Syria. Fed up with al-Baghdadi and unable to control him, al-Zawahri formally disavowed the Islamic State in February.
But al-Baghdadi’s stature has only grown since then, as the Islamic State’s fighters have strengthened their grip on much of Syria, and now overrun large swathes of Iraq.
In Washington, the Obama administration called on the international community to unite in the face of the threat posed by the Sunni extremists.
"ISIL’s strategy to develop a caliphate across the region has been clear for some time now. That is why this is a critical moment for the international community to stand together against ISIL and the advances it has made," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The Islamic State’s declaration comes as the Iraqi government tries to wrest back some of the territory it has lost to the jihadi group and its Sunni militant allies in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Iraqi helicopter gunships struck suspected insurgent positions for a second consecutive day in the northern city of Tikrit, the predominantly Sunni hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi military launched its push to wrest back Tikrit, a hotbed of antipathy toward Iraq’s Shiite-led government, on Saturday with a multi-pronged assault spearheaded by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters.
The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military’s initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah, two residents reached by telephone said.
Muhanad Saif al-Din, who lives in the city center, said he could see smoke rising from Qadissiyah, which borders the University of Tikrit, where troops brought by helicopter established a bridgehead two days ago. He said many of the militants had deployed to the city’s outskirts, apparently to blunt the Iraqi military attack.
Military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters Sunday that government troops in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.
"The battle has several stages. The security forces have cleared most of the areas of the first stage and we have achieved results," al-Moussawi said. "It is a matter of time before we declare the total clearing" of Tikrit.
A provincial official reached by telephone reported clashes northwest of the city around an air base that previously served as a U.S. military facility known as Camp Speicher. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Jawad al-Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command, said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Iraq and has played an “essential” role in the Tikrit offensive.
"The Americans are with us and they are an important part in the success we are achieving in and around Tikrit," al-Bolani told The Associated Press.
Washington has sent 180 of 300 American troops President Barack Obama has promised to help Iraqi forces. The U.S. is also flying manned and unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance missions over Iraq.
Iraq’s government is eager to make progress in Tikrit after weeks of demoralizing defeats at the hands of the Islamic State and its Sunni allies. The militants’ surge across the vast Sunni-dominated areas that stretch from Baghdad north and west to the Syrian and Jordanian borders has thrown Iraq into its deepest crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.
More ominously, the insurgent blitz, which prompted Kurdish forces to assert long-held claims over disputed territory, has raised the prospect of Iraq being split in three, along sectarian and ethnic lines.
For the embattled al-Maliki, success in Tikrit could help restore a degree of faith in his ability to stem the militant tide. Al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been widely accused of monopolizing power and alienating Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities, is under growing pressure to step aside. But he appears set on a third consecutive term as prime minister after his bloc won the most seats in April elections.
Fox News analyst Pete Hegseth suggested on Tuesday that the arrest of a suspect in connection with 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi may have been a conspiracy to help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just hours before she was scheduled to talk to the conservative network.
After Fox News broke the news on Tuesday that U.S. forces had detained Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala, Hegseth said that he was pleased, but “we all have questions about the timing.”
"You have the former secretary of state, who is in the middle of a really high-profile book tour, and I think this is convenient for her to shift the talking points," Fox News guest host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery noted.
"Something clearly changed in the calculus of the United States, and I think a lot of it does have to do with the State Department," Hegseth agreed. "I think this thing needs to be tied in a bow for certain individuals to have a clean break from an incident that has become, and will continue to be a scandal — an anchor around a certain individual’s neck, who may want to run for president."
"She’s having an interview today on Fox News," co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle pointed out.
President Obama announced today that, while the U.S. is willing to do their part to help deal with a terrorist insurgency, he will not be sending combat troops back to Iraq.
The president said:
Over the last couple of days, we’ve seen significant gains by the ISIL terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and Syria. In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun part of Iraq’s territory, and this poses a danger to Iraq and its people and given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat, eventually to American interests as well.
Now, this threat is not brand new. Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping, and intelligence. Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. We will not be sending U.S. combat troops back into Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq’s security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
Obama’s position on helping Iraq was summed up with one sentence, “We can’t do it for them.” He added, “The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems.”
President Obama was correct. This isn’t something that the United States can do for Iraq. The problems in Iraq are best summed up by a report from The Guardian, “Two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of an assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Isis extremists roamed freely on Wednesday through the streets of Mosul, openly surprised at the ease with which they took Iraq’s second largest city after three days of sporadic fighting.”
If the Iraqi security forces aren’t willing to fight when they have an overwhelming advantage, there isn’t much that the United States, or anyone else can do for the Iraqi government. The security situation in Iraq that was constructed by the Bush administration was always a house of cards. Since the U.S. invasion, there have always been issues with Iraqi security forces not wanting to fight.
None of this is new. The difference is that Republicans have long held the position that the United States should never have taken our combat troops out. Under a Republican president, U.S. troops would still be fighting and dying for some people who don’t want to take responsibility for their own national security.
Recent events are demonstrating why it was a good idea for the United States to get the combat troops out of Iraq. The Bush doctrine has been a total failure, and Obama is doing the right thing by making the Iraqis stand on their own.
Good call, President Obama.