Syrian Air Force Strikes ISIL in Northern Iraq


Syrian aircraft executed airstrikes in northern Iraq Tuesday against the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a report from the Washington Post.

The U.S. military is aware of these reports and a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. has "no reason to dispute these reports."

The Iraqi media initially had reported that U.S. drones had executed the same airstrikes before Pentagon officials denied those reports.

Syria's reported airstrike occurs at a complicated time for the U.S. military's involvement in Iraq. U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and Air Force drones are already flying surveillance missions over northern Iraq to track ISIL movements. The U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush has moved into the Persian Gulf to support military operations in Iraq.

Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. will not comment on the surveillance missions over Iraq and whether the Syrian airstrike occurred near U.S. aircraft. He also would not say if the airstrikes would restrict future U.S. surveillance missions.

"We will not discuss details of our [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] missions in support of Iraq, but they remain persistent, and include manned and unmanned aircraft," Speaks said.

President Obama has said that he would consider airstrikes against ISIL should the situation warrant it.

The Islamic militant group has taken over numerous northern Iraqi cities such as Mosul after defeating the U.S. trained Iraqi forces. ISIL forces on Wednesday have begun attacks on the Balad air base in northern Iraq where the U.S. had stationed a large portion of its military forces between 2003 and 2011.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. will not consider airstrikes against ISIL until the Iraq government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes progress toward including more sects inside Iraq. Kerry's comments follow his recent trip to Irbil, Iraq, the Kurdish regional capital.

The Syrian airstrikes on Tuesday occurred only one day after Israeli fighter aircraft executed airstrikes on nine targets in Syria to include the Syrian military headquarters. These airstrikes followed a Syrian missile attack into the Golan Heights of Israel.

Syria and the U.S. are not the only countries in the region who have said they would consider attacks against ISIL. The Iranians have said they would intervene in Iraq if it looked like ISIL would over run Maliki's government.

Iran, a predominantly Shia religious-based country, has many connections with Maliki, who is also a Shiite. Early reports from the U.S. Department of State suggested the U.S. might work together with Iran to stomp out the ISIL threat. The Pentagon has since denied those reports.

The civil war in Syria and the emergence of ISIL in Iraq have turned Syria and northern Iraq into a joint battle space, said Colin Kahl, a senior fellow and director of Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

"The border between Syria and Iraq has effectively been erased," he said. "There is one battle space, so I would expect that you would see Syrian forces who are battling [ISIL] hit on both sides of the border."

-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at

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