Obama’s Air Strikes Against ISIS in Iraq Light Up Militant Forums
President Obama’s Thursday announcement that he had authorized air strikes on Iraq has caused an online uproar among ISIS and Islamic jihad supporters. The attack, which took place on Thursday night, knocked out ISIS artillery targets near Erbil in northern Iraq and was prompted by ISIS laying siege of tens of thousand of refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan. The refugees come from a minority Kurdish sect, the Yezidis, and face persecution at the hands of ISIS militants. The U.S. also has personnel in Erbil and Baghdad whom they wish to protect.
As of now, ISIS leadership has made no official statements on the attack. Various jihadi forums are commonly used for this kind of announcement and as platforms for further chatter. However, as of Friday morning, the leading ISIS forum was down, apparently suffering from some sort of attack itself. It is unknown whether or not this attack is related to the current events unfolding in Iraq.
More than 70,000 tweets containing the Arabic hashtag #أوباما يعلن قصف الدولة الإسلامية (Obama announced attacking the Islamic State) have appeared since yesterday’s announcement, with many ISIS-affiliated accounts re-posting a month-old video depicting ISIS militants carrying out successful operations against U.S. troops, with a voice-over of a senior ISIS figure (either Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or the late Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi) saying the Islamic State will win against the “apostates,” even though America and the West have chemical and nuclear weapons.
Other supporters, including some on the Hanein Islamist forum, are angrily asking why Obama wouldn’t intervene in Syria or Gaza, but is now wading into military action against ISIS in Iraq.
Ahmad from Mosul writes, “What is this western duality?? What is this hypocrisy?? Muslims are slaughtered all over the place in Gaza, Burma, Central Africa, Iraq, Syria, Cashmere [sic], China and India and we did not see any action from the West!! For the darkening eyes of a few Christians and Yazidi (Satan worshippers) France and America are preparing for a new crusade!!!!”
In another post, he continues: “Gaza was destroyed by Israel and America was happy, and now when ISIS are attacking around Kurdistan America is interfering without consulting the UN. What are we supposed to understand from this?!”
Another forum user, Al-Muhind, writes, “They did not care for the Syrian people who are killed, displaced and starving to death from Assad’s siege in the last three years. They didn’t care about Gaza, in which citizens got killed and are now left with no place to go to, without water and under siege. But they did stand up now without meeting U.N. security council. They are sending aid, they are bombing and invading their army in order to help Satan worshippers (Yazidis) and a Christian minority and agents of Kurds!
A jihadi user and ISIS sympathizer (below) tweeted, “Bashar Assad killed Syrians with chemical weapons and Obama the corrupted didn’t intervene.”
Sectarian bias is also called into question. The tweet below says, “Bashar is killing Muslims for four years and Obama did not act. But when there is danger to the Christians of Iraq because ISIS is getting closer, he is declaring war.’’
Also commonplace are repeated shares of disturbing images of military losses and of 9/11, pictures of Islamic groups’ achievements in the Iraq war against America, as published by Twitter accounts affiliated with ISIS, including the below image from Iraq, with a man holding up a sign that says, “Fallujah will be the graveyard for Americans.”
The U.S. air strike is the first significant American military operation In Iraq since ground troops left in 2011. The White House was at pains to stress on Friday that, despite the intervention, there was no intention on the part of the Obama administration to enter into another prolonged engagement on Iraqi soil.