Iraq Airstrikes: Why? And Why Now?

For the first time in years, the U.S. military is carrying out airstrikes in Iraq.

President Obama said, "To stop the advance on Erbil, I've directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city."

President Obama authorized the operation to avoid the genocide of religious minorities and protect U.S. military and embassy personnel stationed in Iraq. The U.S. also dropped food and water to thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidis, a religious sect trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq.

Even after the airstrikes and aid, President Obama has stopped short of putting more boots on the ground.

But many of you have been asking why. Why is this happening? And why now? 2 Wants to Know took a closer look.

Why is this happening?

ISIS-- the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has wanted to establish an Islamic state since they were founded in 2004. The takeover attempt has actually been happening for several years, since 2004 founding. And this New York Times graphic shows ISIS militants attacks by year, and how they have taken over key cities across Iraq since U-S troops left in 2011.

Why the strikes now?

ISIS started by taking over swathes of land in Syria and then pushed into Iraq. In June, they took over Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. In the weeks following, they captured or attacked several other cities, en route to Baghdad. In response, the U.S. moved many military and embassy personnel from Baghdad to Erbil. Now, ISIS militants started approaching Erbil. Hence, the airstrikes.

So why is the U.S. involved and why should you care?

Of course, there's the loss of human life. But there's also oil. OPEC says Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels of oil per day and has the world's fourth largest oil reserves.


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