France launched its first airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Friday, making it the latest country to join in direct military attacks in the ever-expanding U.S.-led war on Iraq.
"This morning, at 9:40 am, our Rafale aircraft carried out a first attack against a logistics center of the terrorist organization Daesh [ISIS] in the north-east of Iraq," French President François Hollande announced Friday, according to the Guardian. "The target was hit and entirely destroyed. Other operations will be carried out in the days to come."
The U.S. has been aggressively assembling a coalition of nearly 30 Western and Middle Eastern countries to back its war on Iraq and potential attacks on Syria. As of last week, the U.S. had launched 158 airstrikes across Iraq, according to U.S. Central Command, with the details of these attacks, including civilian and combatant casualties, still unknown to the public. At least 1,600 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized the military to launch attacks on neighboring Syria.
On Thursday, Obama heaped praise on France for joining the U.S. coalition. "As one of our oldest and closest allies, France is a strong partner in our efforts against terrorism and we are pleased that French and American service members will once again work together on behalf of our shared security and our shared values," he stated.
France opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation in Iraq, and according to the New York Times, "analysts say the French public remains wary of sustained Western intervention in the region." Meanwhile, Hollande faces dismal approval ratings of 13 percent in a country struggling with high unemployment and poverty.
France's bombings come despite warnings from Middle East experts that military attacks on ISIS will only make the armed group grow stronger while further embroiling the region in militarization and bloodshed.