Two and a half years after the US military withdrew from the country, Barack Obama has pledged a renewed commitment to long-term military involvement in Iraq to counter the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, which has swallowed large swathes of northwestern Iraq and northern Syria.
Washington defended its renewed involvement in Iraq as being necessary to prevent the slaughter of the minority Yazidi and Christian religious communities, who fled their homes en masse as ISIS advanced. US forces did indeed provide thousands of gallons of clean water and packaged meals.
The administration’s altruism, though helpful in this case, appears highly selective, considering the subdued US response to the entrenched persecution of minorities in the region throughout the Western-backed war to topple the Syrian government over the past three and a half years.
The Obama administration’s strategic interests in the current scenario are undoubtedly grounded in bolstering the pro-American Kurdish peshmerga forces defending the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, where US energy firms such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have significant investment interests.
The United States has redeployed some 800 troops to Iraq since June, and has since conducted dozens of airstrikes in support of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi Special Forces, who successfully retook a strategic dam near Mosul. The Iraqi army is now struggling to retake the town of Tikrit, some 130km north of Baghdad, where ISIS is firmly in control.