In Iraq, U.S. Pursues a Military Middle Road

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

In carrying out limited airstrikes in Iraq, the Obama administration is pursuing a strategy that attempts to contain the threat posed by Islamic militants but that does not seek to break their hold on northern and western Iraq.

“This was not an authorization of a broad-based counterterrorism campaign” against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a senior administration official said.

But the control that ISIS now exerts over eastern Syria and much of the Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq remains an enormous worry for American counterterrorism officials, who warn that this territory has become a sanctuary for jihadists who may plan attacks against the West.

In announcing that he had authorized military strikes Thursday night, President Obama noted that there was no American military solution to Iraq’s problems. And American officials have pointed out that the formation of a new multisect Iraqi government would go a long way toward easing the worries of many Sunnis and making them a less hospitable host for ISIS militants.

But there also is no prospect of drawing ISIS into Iraq’s political process

While Mr. Obama said in a recent interview with The New York Times that the United States is not going to allow ISIS to create a caliphate that runs through Syria and Iraq, and spoke generally of his interest in working with “partners on the ground,” he has yet to articulate a detailed and systemic strategy for rolling back ISIS’ gains in the region.

In remarks on Saturday before departing for vacation, Mr. Obama acknowledged that ISIS gains in recent months had been “more rapid than the intelligence estimates and, I think, the expectations of policymakers.”

On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated in a Friday news conference in Kabul that the White House was still deliberating over its long-term strategy to counter the militants.

More From The New York Times: