The US and five Middle Eastern allies have begun airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, with the military reporting 22 airstrikes in the country—though they didn't all target ISIS. Who else was in our crosshairs? The answer to that, and more:
- Did Syria get a heads-up? It says it did. The Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement that the US informed Damascus' envoy to the UN that strikes would be launched against ISIS in Raqqa. In the past, Syrian officials have insisted that any strikes against ISIS in the country should come only via coordination with Damascus, but US officials have ruled out direct coordination with Bashar al-Assad's government.
- Why Raqqa? It's ISIS' "de facto capital," writes Terrence McCoy for the Washington Post. Militants took the northern city in January and now essentially govern it. "There's a tax system, a school system, a court system, bakeries, mosques—and paychecks arrive on time. ... [It] symbolizes everything the Islamic State hopes to achieve across the region: a functioning, militarized theocracy," writes McCoy. That makes it an "attractive target." And there's a dark side to the orderliness. From a UN report: "Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays. Public squares have become the scene of amputations, lashings, and mock crucifixions."
- What did the effort consist of? USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea fired 47 Tomahawk missiles; Air Force fighter jets, armed drones, and allied aircraft also participated. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia were part of the effort. The Wall Street Journal reports that some of their planes flanked those of the US and sees their involvement as key, in that it detracts from "the appearance of a unilateral US attack on Syrian territory."
- What did we hit? Per CNN, training compounds, headquarters, storage facilities, supply trucks, armed vehicles, and ISIS militants, though the number of ISIS fighters killed wasn't given by the Pentagon.
- What did we target beyond ISIS? The "Khorasan Group," which the Journal describes as a smaller group that's actually a bigger threat to the West. A defense official told the paper that intelligence indicates the group was in the "advanced stages" of planning an attack against a target in the US or Europe. ABC News reports the US, with no assistance from our allies, carried out eight strikes against them; the remaining 14 were against ISIS.
- So are we done? No. Think of this as the initial blow.
- How many countries have we targeted with airstrikes (via plane or drone) since 9/11? We're up to seven, reports the Atlantic: Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, and now Syria.
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