Pivoting on ISIS Brutality, Obama Orders 350 More Troops to Iraq

The Pentagon has announced that an additional 350 U.S. soldiers will be deployed to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 1,000 troops as President Obama escalates his war against the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (alternately known as both ISIS and ISIL).

Word of the expanded ground force came late on Tuesday just hours after a new video surfaced which appeared to show American journalist Steven Sotloff being killed by ISIS. U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed their belief that the video was authentic. Prior to being brutally beheaded in the video, Sotloff was forced to speak directly to the camera and state that his death was direct retribution for the U.S. bombing of ISIS forces and military interference in both Iraq and Syria. Two weeks ago, a similar video was posted showing the beheading of another American journalist, James Foley.

In a statement on Wednesday, President Obama deplored the killing of both journalists and said the U.S. would not forget the “terrible crime against these two fine young men” and—despite the threats from from ISIS—that U.S. forces would continue to fight the “barbaric and ultimately empty vision” the group represents.

“Our reach is long and justice will be served,” vowed Obama.

The Guardian reports:


The looming threat of a protracted military engagement in Iraq seems more and more likely now for U.S. forces. Though critics who warned against Obama’s decision to bomb Iraq and re-deploy troops had specifically raised the alarm about “mission creep” from the beginning, the brutality of ISIS—viscerally represented by the videos of beheaded journalists—has created widespread support among both Republican and Democrat lawmakers—not to mention large sections of the population—for Obama to continue U.S. military action against the group. In fact, many on Capitol Hill are urging Obama to expand the fight in Iraq and Syria dramatically—pushing for airstrikes inside Syria and sending additional weapons to other factions on the ground who are engaged in the fight against ISIS. 

Critics of such policies, however, continue to remind the public that it was the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and broader U.S. foreign policy that created the conditions for ISIS to rise in the region and warn that further military escalation in either Iraq or Syria is a mistake that plays right into the hands of jihadist groups like ISIS.

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As Tom Engelhardt, editor of the online magazine TomDispatch.com, wrote on Tuesday:

And Engelhardt warns that for Obama to be so easily goaded into escalation by the brutal videos released by ISIS would be a foolish, and rather transparent, mistake. Argues Engelhardt:

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