Despite calls for diplomacy and peace, the United States launched airstrikes against Syria early Tuesday targeting Islamic State (or ISIS) fighters, marking the first bombing of that nation since President Barack Obama declared he had all authority needed to conduct such strikes without congressional approval.
According to U.S. Central Command, the attacks struck 14 targets and were carried out with a "mix of fighter, bomber, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles." It was conducted with support from five partner Arab nations: the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Such nice friends RT @julianbarnes Obama: We were joined in this action by our friends and partners.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 23, 2014
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 160 people were killed during Monday's attack on Syria including 31 civilians.
Claiming success, the U.S. military said that the strikes destroyed numerous targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal including training compounds, command and operations facilities, and armored vehicles.
However, opponents of the war were quick to reiterate that such strikes will only embolden the terrorist group and worsen the crisis in the Middle East, repeating Obama's own statement that there is "no military solution" to combating ISIS.
As Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, declared in a post following the attack: "You can’t bomb extremism out of existence."
"The U.S. bombs do not fall on 'extremism,'" Bennis continued, "they are falling on Raqqah, a 2,000 year-old Syrian city with a population of more than a quarter of a million people—men, women and children who had no say in the take-over of their city by ISIS."
"The Pentagon is bombing targets like the post office and the governor’s compound, and the likelihood of large number of civilian casualties as well as devastation of the ancient city, is almost certain," Bennis wrote, adding that the only way to counter ISIS is to shift to a broad, diplomatic approach in the region.
Also Monday, the U.S. military alone conducted eight strikes near Aleppo against targets associated with the Khorasan Group, an alleged al-Qaida offshoot. The military also continued to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq as well bringing the total number of strikes there to 194.
The U.S. military says that going forward they will continue to conduct strikes against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.
The attack comes a week after Congress backed Obama's request for $500m to train "moderate" Syrian rebels. However, the legislature deferred a vote on the war against ISIS until after November's election. The U.S. president asserts that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al-Qaida grants him sufficient legal authority to attack the group in Syria, despite the fact that al-Qaida itself has publicly rejected affiliation with ISIS. Critics assert that the decision to bomb Syria stands in stark violation of international law, the United Nations charter, and the War Powers Resolution in the U.S. Constitution.
As Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out in a post on Tuesday, it was just over a year ago that the Obama administration was pushing to attack the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whereas now the U.S. is bombing the enemies of the Assad regime. Critics argue that Obama's changing stance towards Assad is reflective of what they say is a confused and misguided foreign policy.
"It seems irrelevant on whom the U.S. wages war; what matters it that it be at war, always and forever," Greenwald writes.
Obama is expected to give an address on the strike on Tuesday at 10AM EST. A live stream is available to watch on the Department of Defense website.