Combating Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria is "not America's fight alone," President Obama said Tuesday at the White House, hours after the U.S. and allied Arab nations launched more than 50 airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria. Monday's strikes were the first time American forces have carried out a military mission inside the war-torn country.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, and Qatar joined the U.S. in the strikes in Syria. "America’s proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations," Obama said.
"The strength of this coalition makes it clear this is not America’s fight alone," he said during his brief address.
Obama spoke before traveling to the United Nations for a summit on climate change, where the president said he will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other world leaders to build international support for the fight against ISIS.
Syria is the seventh country Obama has bombed. Obama was swept into office in part on his pledge to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the president was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize early in his first term, in 2009. But Obama has aggressively pursued military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria during his time in office. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the central target of the United States’ strikes, has taken control of large swaths of Syria and northern Iraq. The U.S. has launched nearly 200 airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq since August.
“We hit depots, training facilities, we actually hit some vehicles, and we certainly believe we hit were headquarter type buildings,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said of the latest Syria strikes Tuesday on “Morning Joe.”
Both manned and unmanned air assets were used in the strikes, including F-22s, B-1 Bombers, F-16s and F/A-18s. U.S. warships also launched missiles as part of the strikes.
“The American people give thanks to the extraordinary services of our men and women in uniform,” Obama said.
The U.S. gave Syria a heads up on the strikes. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power appealed to Syria’s representative at the UN not to engage with American warplanes, a senior administration official said, adding that the U.S. didn’t ask Syria for permission before the strikes nor did it coordinate with President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the U.S. strikes in Syria “illegal” because they were not authorized by the UN nor requested by Assad. He told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that while Iran is not participating in the strikes against ISIS and other terror targets, “we are extremely active against terrorism.”
Congress voted last week to authorize Obama's plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to go after ISIS. But Congress has not voted on whether it supports Obama's airstrikes. Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said lawmakers should have "weighed in" on the action. He said the Senate will consider legislation on authorizing U.S. airstrikes.
House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said Tuesday he supports the airstrikes.
"ISIL is a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States and our allies," he said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for the terror group. "I support the airstrikes launched by the president, understanding that this is just one step in what must be a larger effort to destroy and defeat this terrorist organization. I wish our men and women in uniform Godspeed as they carry out this fight."