“There is a real sense of urgency over here at the White House,” reported CNN’s Jim Acosta on Friday. He added that the president is mulling his options for dealing with the situation in Iraq and will make a decision about how to address the worsening crisis as early as this weekend.
Acosta added that Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that the Pentagon has been conducting surveillance operations over Iraq in order to provide the president with a military options should he decide to pursue them.
“We have already taken some immediate steps, including providing enhanced aerial surveillance support to assist the Iraqis in this fight,” Kerry told reporters in London on Friday. “We have also ramped up shipments of military aid to Iraq since the beginning of the year.”
Iraqi officials have requested American air support in order to roll back the onslaught of ISIS fighters who have taken control of a number of major cities over the past several days. CNN’s Barbara Starr also reported that Barbara the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush has been routed from N. Arabian Sea to Persian Gulf. “Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be ruling out the notion of drones in any significant way,” she said.
However, as CNN also reported on Friday, defense officials are also concerned that airstrikes may not be effective as some hope. “Calls for American air strikes have increased in Washington, but U.S. military planners trying to find a way to help Iraq fend off the militant fighters are worried that such attacks could prove futile, several officials told CNN,” the report read.
Among other complications, U.S. officials don’t have good intelligence about where militants are. Even if they did, the militants don’t have the type of targets — command and control centers, air defense sites, military bases — that lend themselves to aerial attacks, the officials said on condition of not being identified.
Given the political headaches that would result for this administration, one which campaigned on the issue of extricating the United States from Iraq’s internal affairs after seven years of war, the prospect of mounting potentially ineffective strikes against ISIS militants is probably not an enticing one.