The president's announcement Thursday night involves airdrops of humanitarian aid to minority Yazidis trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq and airstrikes against the Islamic State if U.S. interests or personnel are threatened.
The crisis in Iraq had escalated rapidly on Thursday with a re-energized Islamic State in Iraq and Syria storming new towns in the north and seizing a strategic dam, as Iraq’s most formidable military force, the Kurdish pesh merga, was routed.
The Kurds have been begging American diplomats for weapons as they fight ISIS militants who are using powerful American weapons they took from the battlefield, left by the Iraqi Army.
Obama's decision could open him to charges that he's willing to use American military power to protect Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities but not to prevent the slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims, either in Iraq or neighboring Syria, says The New York Times.
And offensive strikes on militant targets around the Kurdish capital of Erbil and Baghdad would take American involvement in the conflict to a new level — "in effect, turning the American Air Force into the Iraqi Air Force," the Times says.
Meanwhile, political intrigue was high in Baghdad Thursday, as political leaders met late into the night in the fortified Green Zone to choose a replacement for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.