In his address to the nation, President Obama outlined a multi-phase plan for combating ISIS, saying the United States would lead a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.” He said he was authorizing U.S. airstrikes in Syria for the first time, and that the U.S. effort in Iraq would expand. While the U.S. will send 475 service members to Iraq, they will “not have a combat mission.” They will provide intelligence, training, and equipment to Iraqi forces. “We will not be dragged into another ground war,” said Obama.
Obama noted how broad a threat ISIS posed with its international recruitment. “Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners—including Europeans and some Americans—have joined them in Iraq and Syria,” he said. While the president focused on a strategy for combating ISIS in Iraq, he made it clear that the U.S. “will not hesitate” to go into Syria if need be. “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” he said. A year ago, the president declined to use airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; his decision to take such action against ISIS amounts to a change in strategy spurred by the extremist group’s growing threat.
Obama said he has the “authority to address the threat” posed by ISIS, but that may not be true. Eli Lake reports Obama’s legal rationale for the war rests on post-9/11 legislation empowering the president to go after al Qaeda, but of course ISIS isn’t part of al Qaeda. Obama has asked Congress to allocate $5 billion for counterterrorism, which has yet to be approved.