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2014年8月12日 (火)

米軍イラク空爆 オバマ大統領の苦渋の決断だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Decision to launch Iraq air strikes a wrenching choice for Obama
米軍イラク空爆 オバマ大統領の苦渋の決断だ

U.S. forces have launched air strikes in Iraq against an Islamic extremist group. This is the first U.S. military intervention since U.S. forces withdrew completely from Iraq in 2011.

For the administration of President Barack Obama, which has touted the pullout from Iraq as one of its major accomplishments, the decision to militarily intervene again signifies a policy change toward Iraq.

The U.S. strikes are targeting positions of the Islamic State, an extremist organization of the Islamic Sunni sect. U.S. aircraft including fighter planes and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) have repeatedly bombed such targets as mortar positions of the Islamic State.

Having expanded its sphere of influence by taking advantage of the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State has launched assaults on other religious sects and ethnic groups, seizing towns and oil fields one after another in Iraq, which is now on the brink of a security collapse.

The United States earlier sent such personnel as military advisers to Iraq to help prop up the struggling Iraqi government, but the situation has grown worse and worse. The U.S. decision to embark on military action to rein in the extremists’ offensive is understandable.

Regarding the purpose of the air strikes, Obama referred in a speech on Thursday to the protection of such Americans as diplomats and military advisers who are stationed in Iraq.

He also pointed out that many Iraqi residents who have fled to the mountains to escape persecution by the extremists are facing death due to a lack of food and water. Emphasizing the humanitarian aspect of the air strikes, he noted current events “would constitute genocide,” and that “the United States cannot turn a blind eye.”

Exit strategy unclear

Britain and France have expressed their unequivocal support for the U.S. air strikes, which were made in response to requests from the Iraqi government. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has also expressed a degree of understanding, saying the air strikes should be deemed as “part of the fight against terrorism.”

With a midterm election scheduled for November in the United States, the air strikes must have been a politically tough decision for the president.

Many members of the opposition Republican Party have criticized the Obama administration over the deterioration of the Iraq situation, saying it resulted from the administration’s weak-kneed stance.

Meanwhile, many U.S. citizens have opposed sending U.S. troops overseas. Obama strongly denied the possibility of deploying ground troops in his statement, presumably in consideration of such public opinion.

It is concerning, however, that the effect of the air strikes is unclear, and the Obama administration has not crafted an exit strategy. Should the air strikes become unnecessarily protracted, fears would then arise of anti-U.S. sentiment that could develop among the Iraqi people.

For the sake of the long-term stabilization of Iraq, it is indispensable to achieve reconciliation among Iraqi communities and improve public order and security by strengthening the Iraqi forces.

It is vitally important to establish a national unity Cabinet involving both the Islamic Sunni and Shiite sects, as well as Kurdish and other participating forces, as early as possible.

The United States should tenaciously continue its diplomatic efforts to stabilize the Iraqi situation through cooperation with such nearby countries as Iran, a major power among the Shiite nations, and Saudi Arabia, which has significant influence over Sunni Muslims.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 10, 2014)


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