Reasons behind Obama's decision for new strikes
What has US stepped up its campaign against Isil?
Beginning at midnight local time on Thursday, strike aircraft from the US Air Force and its Arab allies began pounding Isil targets in Syria. The Pentagon said the attacks came in three waves, beginning with 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two US warships. The second and third waves involved F-22 fighters and F-18 ground attack aircraft.
The targets included "Isil fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities," said an official statement. As well as hitting Isil, some cruise missiles struck targets in Aleppo related to a previously unknown al-Q'aeda faction called "Khorasan". The Pentagon said this group had been in the final stage of planning attacks on Western targets.
Did any other countries take part?
Yes. Five Arab states joined the offensive against Isil. Saudi Arabia, which has the most powerful air force in the Arab world, is believed to have dispatched British-supplied Tornado strike aircraft. Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all provided jet fighters to protect the bombers. Qatar did not deploy any aircraft but allowed the US to use al-Udeid air base, which serves as the hub for American air operations in the Middle East.
How did Syria respond to these attacks on its territory?
Bashar al-Assad presents himself as Isil's leading enemy and his regime pointedly refrained from condemning the strikes. Instead, a statement from the foreign ministry in Damascus said that Syria supported any "international action" against terrorists, including Isil. The regime also said that America had given advance notice of the attacks. The US State Department acknowledged that Syria had been informed, but added: "We did not request the regime's permission." Nor did America "coordinate" with the Syrian regime or "give any indication of our timing on specific targets".
What is the legal basis for the strikes?
America will argue that UN Resolution 2170, passed on Aug 15, provides a legal basis for attacking Isil. This measure was approved under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which mandates the use of force. The resolution "demands" the disarmament of Isil, so the US could argue that by destroying stockpile's weapons, its offensive was enforcing the will of the UN. In addition, the tacit support given by Syria's regime could serve as a legal basis for strikes on the country's territory.
What is the goal of the campaign?
President Obama has defined the objective as being to "degrade and ultimately destroy" Isil. However, air raids on their own are unlikely to achieve this. America has ruled out deploying combat troops in Syria. Instead, the US will seek to arm and train local forces to fight Isil. ( © Daily Telegraph