Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position as they monitor the area from their front line position in Bashiqa, a town 13 kilometres north-east of Mosul on Aug. 16, 2014.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

U.S. air campaign in Iraq intensifies

Congressional Republicans complaining that President Obama isn’t “on the offensive” enough against ISIS have a little less to complain about this morning.
 
The White House sent a letter to Congress yesterday, notifying lawmakers of “targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam.” The letter argued, among other things, that ISIS control of this key piece of infrastructure “could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.”
 
As of this morning, it appears the military operations have had the intended effect. NBC News reported earlier:
American warplanes helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces dislodge Islamist militants from a key dam in a fierce battle that stretched across at least 30 miles on Monday. U.S. jets roared overhead and pushed back Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) who have been threatening the Washington-backed government in Baghdad. Smoke billowed from three positions around the dam complex, and a village ten miles from it was shrouded in smoke. New explosions could be heard every few minutes.
 
Several of ISIS’ vehicles were destroyed – including at least one that had clearly been hit by an airstrike. A building at an ISIS checkpoint was also flattened. After Kurdish fighters fired four rockets, militants fired back three shells that landed about 80 yards from NBC News’ position. While Kurdish fighters claimed they had taken control of the area around the dam, fighting continued as ISIS retreated.
The Hill added that yesterday’s strikes saw the “first reported use of land-based bombers in the campaign, Previously, most of the strikes had been conducted by a mix of fighter jets and drones.”
 
As for the authorization for all of this, The Hill also quoted a statement from the U.S. Central Command, which said the strikes were conducted “under authority to support humanitarian in Iraq, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces, who are working together to combat” ISIS.
 
And what about Congress?
 
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told msnbc last week that he does not believe Obama needs congressional approval for “the type of targeted airstrikes the president’s conducting right now.”
 
As the airstrikes continue and intensify, how sustainable is this hands-off posture?
 

Foreign Policy and Iraq

U.S. air campaign in Iraq intensifies