US Navy Pushes Escalation in Waters Off Syria and Iran; Air Force Attacks Lybia
September 1, 2016
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Alex Emmons / The Intercept
On August 1, the Obama Administration ordered attacks on ISIS in the Libyan city of Sirte, starting another American war -- once again, without Congressional approval. Meanwhile, US Naval forces operating off the coast of Iran are prepared to "defend themselves" and "improve stability and security in the region" and the US has resumed bombing ISIS targets in Libya, a significant escalation that is spreading the conflict thousands of miles from the warzones in Syria and Iraq.
Obama Extends Libya War, Will Keep Warships Off Libyan Coast
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 31, 2016) -- On August 1, the Obama Administration ordered attacks on ISIS in the Libyan city of Sirte, starting another American war. Officially, Congress was informed that this would be a 30-day operation, but even when it started officials were conceding that there really was no "end point" for the war in any plans.
Unsurprisingly we're now 30 days in, and there's still no end point, so President Obama felt obliged to confirm a 30-day extension of the war, with officials saying it was done at the recommendation of senior military leaders.
As before, this stated length is little more than a bureaucratic placeholder, and there is no reason to believe the war won't just continue indefinitely.
Officials also say that US warships, including one that was scheduled to be redeployed off the coast of Iran to "keep an eye on Iran" aren't going anywhere, and will remain parked off the coast of Libya. Indications are that one of the warships, the USS Carney, is close enough to be seen from the shore.
Though officials are claiming that the attacks inside Sirte itself are likely coming to a close soon, on claims that the "unity government" has nearly captured the entire city, the expectation is that this will not end the US campaign in Libya, though where it will target next remains to be seen.
CENTCOM Commander: US Will Protect Itself From Iran in 'Arabian Gulf'
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 30, 2016) -- Speaking at a press briefing today, Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel claimed an "uptick in confrontations by Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf," insisting that US Naval forces operating off the coast of Iran are prepared to "defend themselves" and "improve stability and security in the region."
This comes after two minor incidents in which Iran sent speedboats out into visual range of US warships parked off the Iranian coast. In one of the two incidents, the US warship fired "warning shots" at the Iranian speedboat, and the US issued public complaints.
Gen. Votel's comments are largely a continuation of the complaints, but a lot of the resultant attention is likely to be in Gen. Votel referring to the Persian Gulf as "the Arabian Gulf" in a public press conference, as officially the United States still recognizes the historical name.
That is not to say it is unprecedented. Several US allies in the region, Arab states, prefer to call it he Arabian Gulf, and there have been military directives instructing US troops to use that term when deployed in the area. It is not, however, generally used in public statements, and Votel was at the Pentagon when making these comments, not deployed to Bahrain.
Persian Gulf is used almost exclusively in the Western world, and indeed has been for many centuries, and the Arabian Gulf only really began to have any momentum in the 1960s. Some US officials have tried to split the difference by simply referring to it as "the Gulf."
US Says New Bombing Campaign Against ISIS in Libya Has No "End Point at This Particular Moment"
Alex Emmons / The Intercept
(August 1, 2016) -- The US launched a major new military campaign against ISIS on Monday when US planes bombed targets in Libya, responding to requests from the UN-backed Libyan government. Strikes took place in the coastal town of Sirte, which ISIS took in June of last year.
The strikes represent a significant escalation in the US war against ISIS, spreading the conflict thousands of miles from the warzones in Syria and Iraq.
All of these attacks took place without congressional authorization or even debate.
"We want to strike at ISIL anywhere it raises its head," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. "Libya is one of those places." He said the airstrikes "would continue as long as [the Libyan government] is requesting them," and that they do not have "an end point at this particular moment in time."
The US has long planned to spread its military campaign to Libya. In January, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the US was preparing to take "decisive military action against ISIL" in Libya.
Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald responded with a post headlined "The US Intervention in Libya Was Such a Smashing Success That a Sequel Is Coming."
The New York Times editorial board called the plan "deeply troubling" and said it represented a "significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent."
The Times supported the US's initial intervention in Libya in 2011, when the US led a NATO air campaign to oust longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But after a mob raped and murdered Gaddafi, the country plunged into years of anarchy and militia rule.
President Obama would later call his failure to plan for Gaddafi's removal his "worst mistake," and thousands of ISIS fighters have since gained a significant foothold in the country.
At the Pentagon press briefing on Monday, when Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast asked Cook if the war was legal, Cook responded by citing a controversial 15-year-old congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution passed in the wake of 9/11.
The AUMF resolution authorizes military force against organizations that "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." But the resolution has been invoked, first by George W. Bush and then by Barack Obama, to justify military action in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and numerous other countries.
The administration has argued that the 2001 AUMF applies to the war against ISIS, even though ISIS and al Qaeda are sworn enemies. Several members of Congress, including Hillary Clinton's running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., have argued that the administration should seek congressional authorization to continue its war against ISIS. Such authorizations for the conflict have failed to gain traction in a divided Congress.
Even without the AUMF, it's unlikely that the White House would have acknowledged any legal barrier to bombing Libya. In 2011, the US continued its Libyan campaign even after Congress rejected a resolution to authorize it.
The White House even delivered a report to Congress that argued that the US-led bombing campaign did not count as "hostilities" under the War Powers Resolution. That resolution limits unauthorized conflicts to 180 days.
While emphasizing that the US is "prepared to carry out more airstrikes," Cook could not confirm basic details about Monday's operation. When Cook was asked if he had a "ballpark figure" of casualties from the airstrikes, he responded, "I don't."
In the past year, the US has also conducted a handful of individual military strikes against ISIS targets in Libya. In February, the US carried out an attack near the coastal city of Sabratha, aiming to take out ISIS operative Noureddine Chouchane. Cook described the attack as "very successful," but a day later, the Serbian government announced that two kidnapped members of the Serbian diplomatic staff had died in the bombing.
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