(Seoul, South Korea) — The United States and a coalition of five Sunni Arab governments have just launched a coordinated military campaign to degrade and eventually destroy the Islamic State, a.k.a, “ISIS.”
The airstrikes represent a dramatic reversal of President Obama’s policy of refusing to get involved militarily in Iraq or Syria over the past several years despite the clear and growing threat of Islamic jihadists to U.S., Israeli and Arab national security.
Given that I have been researching and writing a new geopolitical thriller — The Third Target — about a New York Times reporter tracking the ISIS threat in Syria and Iraq (the novel will be published on January 6th), I am monitoring events in the region very closely. As the military campaign unfolds, I will offer analysis and links to news coverage.
I was also intrigued by an excellent report on “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening about ISIS. The report included must-see interviews with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former CIA director Leon Panetta. Both said the stakes are very high and that more should have been done earlier to stop ISIS. (See below.)
At the moment, my 17-year old son, Jacob, and I are in South Korea. We have been here for the last 10 days. Several Bible scholars and I have been teaching in seminaries and churches about God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people, and the urgency of mobilizing the Korean Church to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the people of the epicenter. Soon, we will return to Israel and I will post reports on what we did and learned here in Korea.
In the meantime:
- please join us in praying for U.S. and allied forces to have success in crushing ISIS.
- please pray for the Lord to protect U.S. and allied forces as they engage the enemy.
- please pray for Christians in Iraq and Syria who are being persecuted or even slaughtered by ISIS.
- please pray for American and allied leaders to have wisdom to know how best to prosecute this military campaign.
- please pray for The Joshua Fund leadership and staff to know how best to help our Arab and Kurdish brothers and sisters who are facing such grave danger — we are currently providing assistance to Christians fleeing from ISIS, as well as Arab Christians in Iraq and Lebanon who are caring for these refugees.
- The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.
- American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State.
- American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control.
- Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.
- The strikes are a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State and open up a risky new stage of the American military campaign.
- Until now, the administration had bombed Islamic State targets only in Iraq, and had suggested it would be weeks if not months before the start of a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.
- Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes, American officials said, although the Arab governments were not expected to announce their participation until later Tuesday.
- The new coalition’s makeup is significant because the United States was able to recruit Sunni governments to take action against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. The operation also unites the squabbling states of the Persian Gulf.
60 MINUTES REPORT ON THE ISLAMIC STATE
The following are excerpts parts I & II of a report called, “The Islamic State,” which aired on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” on September 21, 2014. The correspondent was Scott Pelley.
Today, America’s top military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said the U.S. and its allies will attack ISIS from many directions. “We want them to wake up every day realizing they’re being squeezed,” he said. American pilots have hit the Islamic extremist group in Iraq nearly 200 times now, and soon the U.S. will be bombing ISIS in Syria.
America was drawn back into war when ISIS began to overrun part of northern Iraq called Kurdistan. Kurdistan is semi-autonomous with its own military called the Peshmerga. With American air support, the Peshmerga are holding a tense front line against ISIS.
Earlier this month, we started our reporting on that front line to explain ISIS; what it is, where it came from and how it blitzed through two countries. In June, the leader of ISIS declared himself ruler of a new nation, which he calls The Islamic State….
Gunmen with cameras magnify the menace to make ISIS appear larger than life. But what ISIS has shown only once, is its leader. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in July when he called on all of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to bow to him.
Derek Harvey: We should be very careful about underestimating him. This guy is the real deal.
Derek Harvey was in Iraq for the beginnings of al-Baghdadi. A colonel in U.S. Army intelligence, he briefed President Bush and top commanders. Back then, al-Baghdadi was a member of al Qaeda in Iraq and was imprisoned for a time by U.S. forces. When Iraq’s al Qaeda leader was killed, Baghdadi took over.
Derek Harvey: When he became a key figure within the organization, he was targeted and then in 2010 he had a $10 million bounty put on his head and he became a top tier target.
But the target slipped away into Syria, where he used the chaos of the civil war to build his army. He began to refuse orders from al Qaeda and in February, al Qaeda’s leaders kicked him out.
Scott Pelley: What does al-Baghdadi want?
Derek Harvey: He wants power, influence and authority and a return to the prestige of the Islamic community. And he’s going to start with Syria and Iraq and his strategic vision is to expand into the Gulf, Jordan. From the Mediterranean to Pakistan…
How was the black banner carried so far? A third of Iraq, gone, in a matter of weeks, ground hard won by the United States in what was known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Scott Pelley: The American people sacrificed 4,475 lives, ten years and a trillion dollars building a government and an army for Iraq. How did all of that crumble so fast?
Leon Panetta: It’s a tragic story.
Leon Panetta was Defense Secretary when the U.S. walked off the Iraqi stage in 2011.
Scott Pelley: Back when you watched the stars and stripes being lowered for the last time in Baghdad, were you confident in that moment that pulling out was the right thing to do?
Leon Panetta: No, I wasn’t. I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq. The decision was that we ought to at least try to maintain 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops there, plus keeping some of our intelligence personnel in place, to be able to continue the momentum in the right direction. And frankly, having those troops there, I think would’ve given us greater leverage on Maliki to try to force him to do the right thing as well.
The following are excerpts from the second part “The Islamic State” which aired on Sept. 21, 2014. The correspondent is Scott Pelley. .
President Obama’s plan hinges on arming and training moderate Syrian militias to defeat ISIS. The president has been criticized for not doing that sooner. You’re about to hear from two men who saw the threat early, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Jordan is a moderate, American ally, nearly surrounded by war, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its west, Syria to its north and Iraq to the east.
Today we spoke to King Abdullah in New York before this month’s U.N. General Assembly meeting. For hundreds of years, his family ruled the holiest shrines in Islam. And the king was nearly at a loss for words today when we asked him about the head of ISIS, who claims to lead all Muslims.
King Abdullah II: I hate to use the word “heretics,” whatever the words of those types are, but to even call himself a Muslim is to me is just words that I don’t want to use on this program.
Scott Pelley: You just used the word “heretic,” is he an Islamic heretic?
King Abdullah II: I think to use the word “Islam” and him in the same sentence is not acceptable. That he even speaks in the name of Islam for me is just so horrendous and so shocking.
The Kingdom of Jordan has borne the burden of the Syrian civil war even though it has no oil wealth and precious little water. We went to the border where, for three years, refugees from that war have risked death in the desert in the hope of reaching Jordan, where they are welcomed.