Spying on American People

The Pronk Pops Show 1341, October 15, 2019, Story 1: Senator Mitch McConnell on Unfair Behind Closed Doors Single Party Impeachment Inquiry and Syria — Videos — Story 2: The Search of Leakers in Trump Administration — Videos — Story 3: Democrats Goal of Replacing Your Employer Provided Health Care Cover With Higher Taxes for Medicare For All — Socialized Medicine — Videos — Story 4: President Trump Congratulates The St.Louis Blues For Winning The Stanley Cup — Videos

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Story 1: Senator Mitch McConnell on Unfair Behind Closed Doors Single Party Impeachment Inquiry and Syria — Videos —

Senator Mitch McConnell: Democrats Are ‘Throwing Fairness And Precedent To The Wind’ | NBC News

Senate Needs to Make a Strong, Strategic Statement on Syria

Trump was ‘absolutely right’ to take troops out of Syria: Rand Paul

Democrats, Republicans unite on Trump’s decision on Syria

Senate Needs to Make a Strong, Strategic Statement on Syria

McConnell splits with Trump on Syria pullout

 

Mitch McConnell rebukes Donald Trump over Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held Syria, saying troop pullout gives Iran a chance to reach Israel’s doorstep and contending worthwhile intervention does NOT make the U.S. world’s policeman

  • McConnell once again expressed his ‘grave concern’ about the situation in Syria  
  • Said the door is ‘wide open’ for resurgence of ISIS
  • Said policy could put Iran on Israel’s ‘door-step’
  • Said standing up for U.S. interests does not make nation the ‘evil empire’
  • Trump has repeatedly complained the nation should not be world’s policeman 
  • At the same time, he blasted House Democrats on impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directly confronted President Trump‘s complaint that U.S. troop deployment’s make it the ‘world’s policeman’ and expressed his ‘grave concern’ about Trump’s policy moves in Syria.

McConnell issued the rebuke without directly blaming President Trump for the latest calamity in the region – although he said Trump’s policy threatens to put Iran on Israel’s door-step and fuel a ‘humanitarian catastrophe.’

Following Turkey’s incursion into Syria in territory that had been controlled by U.S.-allied members of the Kurdish minority, McConnell warned that the ‘door is wide open for resurgence of the Islamic State.’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took on President Trump's contention that having forces remain in Syria was akin to being the 'world's policeman'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took on President Trump’s contention that having forces remain in Syria was akin to being the ‘world’s policeman’

In a Senate floor speech, McConnell said the situation created a power vacuum that could fuel the meddling influence of Russia, and ‘leaving northeastern Syria wide open Iran to extend reach unimpeded all the way from tehran to the door step of our friends in Israel.

He also confronted the view, espoused directly by President Trump, that the U.S. should pull out of the region rather serving as the ‘world’s policeman.’

I want to make something clear, the United States has taken the fight to Syria and Afghanistan because that is where our enemies are, that’s why we’re there. Fighting terrorists, exercising leadership and troubled regions and advancing U.S. interests around the world does not make us an evil empire or the world’s policeman,’ McConnell said.

This picture taken on October 15, 2019 shows a missile fired by Turkish forces towards the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, from the Turkish side of the border at Ceylanpinar district in Sanliurfa on the first week of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces

This picture taken on October 15, 2019 shows a missile fired by Turkish forces towards the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, from the Turkish side of the border at Ceylanpinar district in Sanliurfa on the first week of Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish forces

McConnell shared his 'grave concern' about the situation in Syria

McConnell shared his ‘grave concern’ about the situation in Syria

‘When it looked like President Trump would withdraw from Syria at beginning of the year, 70 senators joined in warning of the risk of precipitously withdrawing from Syria or Afghanistan,’ McConnell noted in his floor speech

McConnell had also warned of his ‘grave concern’ in a written statement Monday that did not mention Trump by name. But in his floor speech Tuesday, he included such a reference.

‘When it looked like President Trump would withdraw from Syria at beginning of the year, 70 senators joined in warning of the risk of precipitously withdrawing from Syria or Afghanistan,’ McConnell noted.

But even as he challenged the president on a policy that has resulted in the release of ISIS prisoners, led to attacks against key regional allies, and even led to shelling by Turkish forces toward a U.S. troop-held position, he defended the president on impeachment by attacking Democrats.

‘House Democrats are finally indulging in their impeachment obsession. Full steam ahead,’ McConnell warned. ‘I don’t think many of us were expecting to witness a clinic in terms of fairness or due process. But even by their own partisan standards, House Democrats have already found new ways to lower the bar,’ he complained.

McConnell has said he was required by Senate rules to hold a trial should the House impeach Trump.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7577029/Mitch-McConnell-rebukes-Donald-Trump-Turkish-invasion-Kurdish-held-Syria.html

Trump’s Syria Mess

He resorts to sanctions as the harm from withdrawal builds.

Syrians fleeing Turskih advance arrive to the town of Tal Tamr in north Syria, Oct. 14. PHOTO: BADERKHAN AHMAD/ASSOCIATED PRESS

What a fiasco. Foreign-policy blunders often take months or years to reveal their damaging consequences, but the harm from President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria is playing out almost in real time.

Critics said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would invade northern Syria despite Mr. Trump’s public warnings, and the Turkish strongman did. Critics said our Kurdish allies would strike a deal with Syria’s Bashar Assad to defend themselves, and the Kurds have. Critics said Islamic State prisoners held by the Kurds would be released and scatter to wage jihad again, and they are.

The mess compounded Monday when Mr. Trump authorized sanctions against several Turkish officials and agencies who are “contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” The sanctions include financial measures and barring entry to the U.S. Mr. Trump also said he’s ending trade talks with Turkey and raising steel tariffs to 50%.

Mr. Trump now finds himself back in an economic and diplomatic brawl with Turkey that he said he wanted to avoid. Wouldn’t it have been easier simply to tell Mr. Erdogan, on that famous phone call two Sundays ago, that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate a Turkish invasion against the Kurds and would use air power to stop it? Mr. Erdogan would have had to back down and continue negotiating a Syrian safe zone with the Kurds and the U.S.

Mr. Trump is also making matters worse with his unserious justifications. “After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land,” he tweeted Monday. “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

We suppose the Napoleon line was a joke, but the world is laughing at an American President. Mr. Trump was able to project an image of strength in his early days as he prosecuted the war against ISIS and used force to impose a cost on Mr. Assad for using chemical weapons. But that image has faded as he has indulged his inner Rand Paul and claims at every opportunity that the main goal of his foreign policy is to put an end to “endless wars.”

This is simple-minded isolationism, and it’s a message to the world’s rogues that a U.S. President has little interest in engaging on behalf of American allies or interests. Friends like Israel and Saudi Arabia are quietly dismayed, while Iran, Russia and Hezbollah can’t believe Mr. Trump has so glibly abandoned U.S. commitments and military partners.

By now it’s not unreasonable to conclude that Mr. Trump’s foreign policy can be distilled into two tactics—sanctions and tariffs. Mr. Trump wields them willy-nilly against friend and foe alike as substitutes for diplomacy and the credible threat of military force.

Mr. Trump won’t like to hear it, but the Syrian mess is hurting him at home too. Republicans who have stood by him through the Russia fight and more are questioning his judgment as Commander in Chief in an increasingly dangerous world. With impeachment looming, he can’t afford to alienate more friends.

Opinion: Trump's Foreign Policy Needs to Change Course

Opinion: Trump’s Foreign Policy Needs to Change Course
As Turkey advances into Syria, foreign powers will increasingly act on the belief that the American executive is both politically weak and intellectually unfocused. Image: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Imageshttps://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-syria-mess-11571095091

TRUMP’S CHAOTIC SYRIA EXIT PUTS ANTI-WAR 2020 DEMOCRATS IN A DELICATE SPOT

THE PENTAGON announced on Monday that the U.S. was pulling all of its troops out of northeastern Syria at President Donald Trump’s direction, completing a withdrawal he had started by Twitter declaration a week earlier. The move further clears the way for a full-on invasion by Turkey, whose soldiers have already been accused of executing noncombatants. In the chaos, hundreds of Islamic State detainees have reportedly escaped.

Trump defended his decision in a series of early-morning tweets on Monday. “The same people who got us into the Middle East mess are the people who most want to stay there!” he wrote. “Never ending wars will end!”

Trump’s abandonment of eastern Syria and the U.S. military’s Kurdish allies has put progressive Democrats — many of whom also favor withdrawing from overseas military operations — in a delicate spot. Over the past week, they have been trying to thread the needle between condemning Trump for recklessly abandoning an ally and emphasizing that withdrawing U.S. troops should be an eventual policy goal.

Trump’s decision has showcased what a worst-case scenario for expedited military withdrawal could look like, making it harder for progressive Democratic presidential candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to press their cases against “endless wars” on the campaign trail. The question of how progressives can go about drawing down U.S. military commitments without repeating Trump’s calamitous actions would be an obvious pick for Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.

So far, the Democratic candidates have been critical of Trump but light on specifics about what they would do differently. Last week, Sanders condemned Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, telling reporters that “as somebody who does not want to see American troops bogged down in countries all over the world — you don’t turn your back on allies who have fought and died alongside American troops. You just don’t do that.” But when George Stephanopoulos asked Sunday morning on ABC for Sanders to explain the difference between his and Trump’s approaches, Sanders responded simply that Trump “lies. I don’t.”

Warren’s response was similarly vague. She tweeted that “Trump recklessly betrayed our Kurdish partners” and that “we should bring our troops home, but we need to do so in a way that respects our security.”

Ro Khanna, a Democratic representative from California and co-chair of Sanders’s 2020 campaign, told The Intercept that progressives urgently need to make the case for a “doctrine of responsible withdrawal.”

“I don’t believe that withdrawal from a progressive perspective means a moral indifference to the lives of the places that we leave,” Khanna said in a phone interview. “It’s not an ‘America First’ approach that says our interests and our American lives are the only things that have moral worth. Rather, our withdrawal is based on an understanding of the limitations of American power to shape and restructure societies. It emphasizes the need for effective diplomacy and understands our moral obligations in these places.”

The U.S. should not have withdrawn troops without negotiating a deal that would have kept Turkey from invading Syria, backed by a threat to withhold future arms sales and economic assistance, Khanna told The Intercept. “We could have used all those points of leverage to get their commitment that they wouldn’t slaughter the Kurds.”

Another key difference between Trump’s approach and that of progressives is their level of trust for civil service expertise, Khanna said. “What this shows is that it’s not enough to have a president with certain instincts. Foreign policy requires great expertise. You need a progressive president who understands the importance of military restraint, but who also has the ability to put together an extraordinary foreign policy team to implement the goals that they may have.”

Far from admiring Trump’s approach to Syria, many anti-interventionists and foreign policy experts in D.C. view it as a blueprint for how not to withdraw from a conflict, according to Adam Wunische, a researcher with the Quincy Institute, a new pro-diplomacy, noninterventionist, and nonpartisan think tank.

“What we should have been doing from the very beginning is once we achieved the limited objective of destroying ISIS territory, they should have immediately begun contemplating what kind of peace or settlement could come afterwards,” Wunische told The Intercept. “To my knowledge, the U.S. is one of the only actors that can effectively talk to both the Turks and the Kurds. So they should have been trying to find an acceptable political arrangement for all the parties involved that doesn’t involve an endless, ill-defined military presence for the U.S.”

The Quincy Institute is working on a report outlining a possible plan for U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan that would avoid the type of disorder on display in northeastern Syria, Wunische said, though the timing of the report remains unclear.

Throughout the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, a number of candidates have railed against “endless wars.” But in a conversation that has been defined by intricate domestic policy proposals and detailed outlines of how to structure a wealth tax, candidates have said little about the rest of the world and even less about how they would wind down overseas conflicts.

Sanders, for example, has called for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan “as expeditiously as possible.” Warren has said “it’s long past time to bring our troops home, and I would begin to do so immediately.” Joe Biden has said he would bring “American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term,” but left the door open for a “residual U.S. military presence” that would be “focused on counterterrorism operations.” When asked during a July debate whether he would withdraw from Afghanistan during the first year of his presidency, Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor and Navy Reserve veteran who spent seven months in Afghanistan, answered emphatically in the affirmative.

But aside from seeking a diplomatic solution, candidates have said very little about their policies for ending the war. And as in Syria, stakes for U.S. allies in Afghanistan are high.

A January study by the Rand Corporation found that a “precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan” would have far-reaching consequences. The legitimacy for the U.S.-backed Kabul government would plummet, the report argued, and the Taliban would extend its control and influence. People all across the country would turn to regional militias and rival warlords for basic security.

“I don’t think that anyone, whether they promise it or not, is going to get out of Afghanistan in a week,” said Wuinsche. “What we need to focus on is, what is the political solution that we think is possible, and how do we get there? That requires marshaling all of these different tools of foreign policy, not just the military.”

Kate Kizer, policy director for the D.C.-based advocacy group Win Without War, stressed that one of the most revealing differences between progressives and Trump is how they would treat a conflict’s refugees. Under Trump, the U.S. has accepted historically low numbers of refugees and closed the door on future Syrian immigrants applying for Temporary Protected Status.

“One of the cruelest parts of Trump’s policy is the fact that, in addition to fueling more bloodshed with this decision, he’s also banning any types of civilians who would be fleeing from the conflict,” Kizer said. “In a situation like Syria and even Afghanistan, there’s a way to responsibly withdraw and then there’s a way to cut and run, which is what Trump has shown he has a predilection for. But I’m not sitting here saying that any type of military withdraw will necessarily be bloodless.”

https://theintercept.com/2019/10/15/syria-troop-withdrawal-trump-democrats/

Story 2: The Search of Leakers in Trump Administration — Videos

RUST NO ONE

Trump Suspects a Spiteful John Bolton Is Behind Some of the Ukraine Leaks

Trump fears the leaks are now coming from the people he chose to serve him—and that only increases the paranoia currently infecting the West Wing.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/Getty

At a critical juncture in his presidency, facing a rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry by House Democrats, Donald Trump is feeling besieged by snitches.

In recent weeks, numerous leaks have appeared in the pages of The Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and other major papers and news outlets detailing the president’s attempts to enlist foreign leaders to help dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and also aid Trump’s quest to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s concluded investigation. And as is his MO, the media-obsessed president has been fixated on not just the identity of the whistleblower behind the internal complaint that brought this scandal to the fore, but also on who, exactly, has been namelessly feeding intel to the press.

In the course of casual conversations with advisers and friends, President Trump has privately raised suspicions that a spiteful John Bolton, his notoriously hawkish former national security adviser, could be one of the sources behind the flood of leaks against him, three people familiar with the comments said. At one point, one of those sources recalled, Trump guessed that Bolton was behind one of the anonymous accounts that listed the former national security adviser as one of the top officials most disturbed by the Ukraine-related efforts of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney who remains at the center of activities that spurred the impeachment inquiry.

“[Trump] was clearly implying [it, saying] something to the effect of, ‘Oh, gee, I wonder who the source on that could be,’” this source said, referring to the president’s speculation. Bolton, for his part, told The Daily Beast last month that allegations that he was a leaker in Trump’s midst are “flatly incorrect.”

The former national security adviser—who departed the administration last month on awfulmutually bitter terms—is working on a book about his time serving Trump, and has “a lot to dish,” one knowledgeable source noted.

Neither Bolton nor White House spokespeople provided comment for this story. Matt Schlapp, an influential conservative activist with close ties to the White House, said his assumption was that the leaks were coming from “career folks inside who hate Trump” and that the president and his campaign had “14 months of this” to come. As for Bolton, Schlapp said, “He’s smarter than that, although he does aggressively defend himself.”

Indeed, Bolton’s name surfaced Monday before House impeachment inquiry committees, when Hill reportedly testified that he told her to alert the chief lawyer for the National Security Council that Giuliani was working with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on an operation with legal implications, the Times reported late Monday. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to sources familiar with the testimony.

“I have not spoken to John about [his comments, as conveyed by Hill],” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Tuesday morning. “John is a longtime friend. I have no idea why John is doing this. My best guess is that he’s confused and bought into a false media narrative without bothering to call me about it.”

Regarding Bolton’s reported comment about Mulvaney being involved in this figurative Ukraine “drug deal,” the former New York City mayor insisted that “Mick wasn’t involved in this. I don’t recall having any lengthy conversation with him about this subject… I don’t recall ever having a lengthy conversation [about Ukraine] with John, either.”

Trump has felt under siege from within before, including at various flashpoints of his presidency. For instance, near the end of the Mueller probe, the president became so distrustful and resentful toward Don McGahn, his own White House counsel at the time, he started asking those close to him, “Is [Don] wearing a wire?”

But the current sense that he has been undermined by people whom he brought into his orbit has come at a critical juncture and colored some of the decisions he has made since the whistleblower complaint became public.  The president has openly declared that the whistleblower committed an act of treason. He has attempted to stop prominent advisers—including Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a man who donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration—from testifying to Congress, only to apparently fail. On Monday, Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, was on Capitol Hill, where she reportedly told lawmakers that Sondland and Giuliani circumventedthe standard national-security process on high-profile Ukraine matters. The president has struggled to add to his current legal team, and appeared to begin putting some distance between himself and Giuliani last week.

And when outside allies began to talk about constructing a war room to help with impeachment, Trump shot down the concept, in part out of a sense that he couldn’t rely on them to get the message out right. One top White House aide subsequently labeled the idea an exercise by “outside peeps trying to self-aggrandize.”

The impression left on Republicans is one of a president increasingly driven by paranoia and a desire for insularity—and not, necessarily, to his own benefit.

“There is a certain level of frustration that all the sudden the president says something, then Rudy does, and it is not always consistent. There is a frustration that not everybody knows what they should be doing. It is not that they can’t defend the president it is a frustration that they don’t know exactly how they are supposed to defend the president,” said John Brabender, a longtime GOP consultant. “From the president’s perspective, this whole thing is a witch hunt and is outrageous and, therefore, it shouldn’t even need explanation…But with that said, you can’t just be angry. You need a unified communications team.”

According to those who’ve known the president, the sense that a good chunk of the government has never fully accepted his presidency and has actively worked to undermine it has animated much of his activity over the past few weeks. And though they believe he has a point, they also wonder if it is making him functionally incapable of taking the advice of some advisers: to simply ignore impeachment and apply his attention to other facets of governance.

Trump, they add, is preternaturally incapable of ignoring press about him and lingers particularly on leaks that depict atmospherics of his inner sanctum, the West Wing, and his internal well-being.

“In my experience, what he despises is somebody writing that Donald Trump feels under siege and his emotions are this and his thinking is this,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide. “He hates people saying what he is thinking… And one of his most frequent tricks in terms of talking about himself on background [as an anonymous source] is him having the reporter say [he is] someone ‘familiar with the president’s thinking.’”

Nunberg said he had yet to see a blind quote in any recent report that would lead him to believe that Trump is cold-calling reporters. But the president is certainly working the fourth estate. Democratic aides were left shaking their heads last week when they received an email from the White House with the subject line, “Article from President Trump” and a PDF attachment of a Kimberly Strassel Wall Street Journal column.

“He’s apparently so anxious about GOP support in the Senate, he’s taken to sending WSJ columns against the House inquiry,” said a Senate source.

Still, for all of Trump’s grousing and preoccupation with who is and isn’t stabbing him in the back, loyalty has always been a one-way street for this president. Last week, after the news broke that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen tied to Giuliani, were arrested on charges of violating campaign-finance law, a reporter at the White House asked Trump if the former New York mayor was still his personal attorney. The president responded that he didn’t know.

Though the president would later tweet out his support for Giuliani over the weekend, Trump has a long track record for being loyal to and supportive of a longtime associate, friend, or staffer—up until the moment he’s not. Perhaps the quintessential example of this is that of one of the president’s former attorneys, Michael Cohen, who famously turned on Trump after becoming convinced that the president had abandoned him while he was in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.

Asked by The Daily Beast last week if the president told him that he still had his lawyer’s back—an attorney who further earned the president’s trust by defending Trump during the Mueller investigation—Giuliani let out a big belly-laugh and responded, “There’s nothing, [no knife], in my back.”

“My back feels very comfortable right now,” he added.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-suspects-a-spiteful-john-bolton-is-behind-ukraine-leaks

Story 3: Democrats Goal of Replacing Your Employer Provided Health Care Cover With Higher Taxes for Medicare For All — Socialized Medicine — Videos —

 

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Medicare For All: What Does it Actually Mean?

DEBUNKED: Medicare for All MYTHS! | Louder With Crowder

Story 4: President Trump Congratulates The St.Louis Blues For Winning The Stanley Cup — Videos —

Trump welcomes the St. Louis Blues to the White House

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 1340, October 14, 2019, Story 1: President Trump Retaliates Against Turkey’s Invasion of Syria by Imposing Economic Tariffs on Steel — Videos — Story 2: Behind Closed Doors Single Party Impeachment Inquiry Kangaroo Court Bars Other Representatives From Listening To Testimony — Videos — Videos — Story 2: Amazing Grace of Attorney General’s Defense of Religious Freedom — Videos — Story 3: Behind Closed Doors Single Party Impeachment Inquiry Kangaroo Court Bars Other Representatives From Listening To Testimony — Videos

Posted on October 18, 2019. Filed under: 2020 Democrat Candidates, 2020 President Candidates, 2020 Republican Candidates, Addiction, American History, Bernie Sanders, Breaking News, Budgetary Policy, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton Obama Democrat Criminal Conspiracy, Communications, Congress, Constitutional Law, Corruption, Countries, Crime, Deep State, Defense Spending, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump, Economics, Economics, Education, Elections, Elizabeth Warren, Employment, European History, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Federal Government, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, Fourth Amendment, Government, Government Spending, Health, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, History, House of Representatives, Housing, Human, Human Behavior, Illegal Immigration, Immigration, Impeachment, Independence, Labor Economics, Law, Legal Immigration, Life, Lying, Media, Medicare, Mental Illness, Middle East, Networking, News, People, Philosophy, Photos, Politics, Polls, President Trump, Progressives, Psychology, Radio, Raymond Thomas Pronk, Regulation, Rule of Law, Scandals, Senate, Social Sciences, Spying on American People, Surveillance/Spying, Syria, Taxation, Taxes, Technology, Terror, Terrorism, Trump Surveillance/Spying, Turkey, Unemployment, United States Constitution, Videos, Violence, War, Wealth, Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Pronk Pops Show 1283 July 1, 2019See the source imageOpinion: At Notre Dame, Bill Barr Takes on the Secularists

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Story 1: President Trump Retaliates Against Turkey’s Invasion of Syria by Imposing Economic Tariffs on Steel — Videos —

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The Kurds: The Most Famous Unknown People in the World | Stephen Mansfield | TEDxNashville

The Kurds are an ancient and noble people who are now the primary “boots on the ground” against ISIS in the Middle East. They are 35 million strong worldwide, the largest people group on earth without their own homeland. In this stirring talk, Stephen Mansfield tells the story of the Kurds and does so, surprisingly, through the lives of three women. Stephen Mansfield is a New York Times bestselling author who first rose to global attention with his groundbreaking book, The Faith of George W. Bush, a bestseller that Time magazine credited with helping to shape the 2004 U.S. presidential election. He has written celebrated biographies of Barak Obama, Booker T. Washington, George Whitefield, Winston Churchill, Pope Benedict XVI, and Abraham Lincoln, among others. Mansfield’s latest book, The Miracle of the Kurds, is a timely introduction to the Kurdish people that reached bookstores just as Kurdish troops began standing heroically against the evils of ISIS in the Middle East. The book has been named “Book of the Year” by Rudaw, the leading Kurdish news service. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

Donald Trump vows to ‘obliterate’ Turkey’s economy if there’s ‘inhumane’ treatment of Kurds in Syria

President Trump answers questions about Syria, Turkey

Erdogan asks Arab League: ‘How many Syrians did you accept?’

Turkish forces clash with Kurdish fighters in Syria – BBC News

Graham rips ex-Obama officials’ criticism of Trump’s Syria pullout

Defense Secretary Esper defends Trump’s removal of troops from Northern Syria

Rand Paul slams GOP ‘war caucus’ criticizing Trump for Syria

Why are Americans surprised Trump withdrew troops from Syria?: Gaetz

After Trump Abandoned Kurds, Turkish Invasion Raises Fear of Kurdish Genocide & ISIS Resurgence

What is the Armenian Genocide?

An Armenian Genocide Survivor’s Story | Lucine Z. Kinoian | TEDxBergenCommunityCollege

Armenian genocide: survivors recall events 100 years on

Donald Trump says he is poised to impose ‘powerful sanctions’ on Turkey as Erdogan continues military onslaught in Syria – as unrest helps nearly 800 ISIS brides and their children escape from a camp

  • President Trump said Sunday morning that he is in talks with both members of congress to impose ‘powerful sanctions’ on Turkey 
  • On Saturday night that he will send $50million in financial aid to Syria one week after pulling U.S. troops from the area 
  • This comes as nearly 800 women affiliated with ISIS and their children fled from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria
  • On Sunday, Turkey targeted two border towns with shelling, continuing with the fight against Kurdish militia
  • Syrian troops have been dispatched to the north to face Turkish offensive
  • Trump defended his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, writing on Twitter that it’s ‘very smart not to be involved’ in the fighting on the Turkish border
  • More than 130,000 people have been displaced from northeast Syrian border towns as a result of fighting between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish militia 

President Trump says he is in talks with members of congress to impose ‘powerful sanctions’ on Turkey as Turkish President Erdogan continues his attacks on Kurdish militia just one week after Trump pulled U.S. troops from the area.

‘Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey,’ Trump said in a tweet Sunday morning. ‘Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!’

This comes as nearly 800 women affiliated with ISIS and their children fled from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria after a shelling by Turkish forces, the region’s Kurdish-led administration said Sunday. Syrian troops have now been dispatched to the north to face Turkish offensive.

Trump said Saturday that in response to the Turkish invasion, the U.S. will send $50million in emergency financial aid to Syria.

President Trump announced Saturday night that he will send $50million in financial aid to Syria one week after pulling U.S. troops from the area

President Trump announced Saturday night that he will send $50million in financial aid to Syria one week after pulling U.S. troops from the area

President Trump says he is in talks with both members of congress to impose 'powerful sanctions' on Turkey

President Trump says he is in talks with both members of congress to impose ‘powerful sanctions’ on Turkey

Trump then tweeted that the U.S. is using its power for 'WORLD PEACE!'

Trump then tweeted that the U.S. is using its power for ‘WORLD PEACE!’

The Kurdish-led administration said 785 foreigners affiliated with ISIS escaped Ain Issa (pictured), north of Raqqa, where they were being held following Turkish shelling today

Images shared by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appear to picture people running away from the Ain Issa

Images shared by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appear to picture people running away from the Ain Issa

The money will be sent to assist human rights groups and other organizations to ‘protect persecuted ethnic and religious minorities and advance human rights,’ according to a statement released Saturday night by the Office of the Press Secretary.

Trump spoke of the $50million in aid while at the Values Voters Summit’s Faith, family and Freedom gala dinner Saturday night.

‘Other presidents would not be doing that, they’d be spending a lot more money but on things that wouldn’t make you happy,’ he said. ‘The U.S. condemns the persecution of Christians and we pledge our support to Christians all over.’

The statement by the Office of the Press Secretary says the aid money ‘will also go toward increased accountability, removal of explosive remnants of war, community security for stabilization assistance, documenting human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations, and support for survivors of gender-based violence and torture.

‘We hope regional and international partners will continue their contributions as well. ‘Ensuring the freedom and safety of ethnic and religious minorities remains a top priority for this Administration.’

On Sunday, President Trump defended his decision to pull U.S. troops from Northern Syria, leaving the America’s Kurdish allies to a Turkish invasion, calling it ‘very smart’ for the U.S. to ‘not be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change.’

‘Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight.They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?’ he added.

‘Do you remember two years ago when Iraq was going to fight the Kurds in a different part of Syria. Many people wanted us to fight with the Kurds against Iraq, who we just fought for. I said no, and the Kurds left the fight, twice. Now the same thing is happening with Turkey….’ he wrote.

‘The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!’

On Sunday, Syrian Kurdish officials said they will work with Assad forces to repel Turkish offensive and to liberate areas held by Turkey.

Also on Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that Turkey ‘appears to be ‘ committing war crimes in northern Syria.

‘It’s a very terrible situation over there, a situation caused by the Turks. Despite our opposition, they decided to make this incursion,’ Esper said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Turkey-backed rebels capture city from Kurdish control

On Sunday Trump continued to defend his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, writing: 'Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change'

President Trump continued to double down on his decision to abandon the Kurds

President Trump continued to double down on his decision to abandon the Kurds

Ankara launched the cross-border assault against the YPG militia after US President Donald Trump withdrew troops from the border region. Pictured: Map shows Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain (Sari Kani) near Raqqa

Ankara launched the cross-border assault against the YPG militia after US President Donald Trump withdrew troops from the border region. Pictured: Map shows Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain (Sari Kani) near Raqqa

Mortar shells land on Turkish side of border with Syria

The Kurdish-led administration said in a statement Sunday that 785 ISIS-affiliated foreigners had fled a camp at Ain Issa.

In an apparent reference to Turkish-backed rebels, the Kurdish-led administration said ‘mercenaries’ attacked the camp where ‘Daesh elements’ – a reference to Islamic State – in turn attacked camp guards and opened the gates.

Images shared by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appear to show people running away from the camp.

Turkey’s cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara’s Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.

Turkey is now facing threats of possible sanctions from the U.S. unless it calls off the incursion.

Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.

France also said today it was ‘worried’ to hear of the report that hundreds of relatives of foreign jihadists had escaped.

‘Of course we are worried about what could happen and that is why we want Turkey… to end as quickly as possible the intervention it has begun,’ government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told France 3 television.

Turkey-backed Syrian forces continue Syrian Kurdish fighters assault

On Sunday, Turkey targeted two border towns with shelling, continuing with the fight against Kurdish militia

On Saturday, Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned that ISIS will ‘absolutely come back’ with the removal of U.S. troops from Syria.

‘ISIS is not defeated. We have got to keep the pressure on ISIS so they don’t recover,’ Mattis told Chuck Todd on Meet The Press when asked if President Trump made the right decision by pulling troops from Northern Syria last week.

‘It’s in a situation of disarray right now,’ Mattis, who resigned as Secretary of Defense in January, said of the situation between Turkey and Syria. ‘Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks. We’ll have to see if they can maintain the fight against ISIS. It’s going to have an impact. The question is how much.

‘We may want a war over; we may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out as President Obama learned the hard way out of Iraq, but the ”enemy gets the vote”, we say in the military. And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7568101/Trump-sends-50million-emergency-financial-assistance-Syria.html

David E. Sanger
Syrian army returns to northeast, as Turkey widens invasion
President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

Day after day, they have been caught off-guard, offering up differing explanations of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Erdogan, how the United States and its allies might respond, and even whether Turkey remains an American ally. For a while Mr. Trump said he acted because the Islamic State was already defeated, and because he was committed to terminating “endless wars” by pulling American troops out of the Middle East. By the end of the week he added 2,000 — to Saudi Arabia.

One day he was inviting Mr. Erdogan to visit the White House; the next he was threatening to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it crossed a line that he never defined.

Mr. Erdogan just kept going.

Mr. Trump’s error, some aides concede in off-the-record conversations, was entering the Oct. 6 call underprepared, and then failing to spell out for Mr. Erdogan the potential consequences — from economic sanctions to a dimunition of Turkey’s alliance with the United States and its standing in NATO. He has since threatened both, retroactively. But it is not clear Mr. Erdogan believes either is a real risk.The drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people. At the Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response if Turkish forces — NATO allies — again opened fire on any of the 1,000 or so Americans now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those troops are trapped for now, since Turkey has cut off the roads; removing them may require an airlift.

And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.

Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week.

For his part, Mr. Erdogan claims nuclear ambitions of his own: Only a month ago, speaking to supporters, he said, he said he “cannot accept” rules that keep Turkey from possessing nuclear weapons of its own.

“There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” he said. (In fact, most do not.)

“This president keeps blindsiding our military and diplomatic leaders and partners with impulsive moves like this that benefit Russia and authoritarian regimes,” said Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat and longtime member of the Armed Services Committee.

“If this president were serious about ending wars and winning peace, he’d actually articulate a strategy that would protect against a re-emergence of ISIS and provide for the safety of our Syrian partners,” Mr. Reed added. “But he has repeatedly failed to do that. Instead, this is another example of Donald Trump creating chaos, undermining U.S. interests, and benefitting Russia and the Assad regime.”

The other major beneficiary is Iran, perhaps Mr. Trump’s most talked-about geo-political foe, which has long supported the Syrian regime and sought freer rein across the country.

But none of that appeared to have been anticipated by Mr. Trump, who has no fondness for briefing books and meetings in the Situation Room intended to game out events two or three moves ahead. Instead, he often talks about the trusting his instincts.

“My gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me,” he said late last year. He was discussing the Federal Reserve, but could just as easily been talking foreign policy; in 2017 he told a reporter, right after his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that it was his “gut feel” for how to deal with foreign leaders, honed over years in the real estate world, that guided him. “Foreign policy is what I’ll be remembered for,” he said.

But in this case the failure to look around corners has blown up on him at a speed that is rare in foreign policy and national security. The closest analogue may date back to 1950, during Harry Truman’s administration, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson described America’s new “defense perimeter” in a speech, saying it ran from southern Japan through the Philippines. That left out the Korean Peninsula, and two weeks later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, appeared to have given Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current North Korean leader, permission to launch his invasion of the South. The bloody stalemate that followed lives with the United States today.

At the time, the United States kept a token force in South Korea, akin to the one parked along the Turkish-Syrian border. And it is impossible to know whether the North Korean attack would have been launched even without Mr. Acheson’s failure to warn about American action if a vulnerable ally was attacked — just as it is impossible to know if Mr. Erdogan would have sent his troops over the border if that phone call, and Mr. Trump’s failure to object, had never happened.

It was Mr. Trump himself who, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, blamed President Barack Obama for a similar error. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq,” he said, referring to the 2011 withdrawal. “They shouldn’t have been in, but once they got in, the way they got out was a disaster. And ISIS was formed.”

Even his allies see the parallel. “If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet I thought it would be Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders in recent years, but among his harshest Republican critics for the Syria decision, said last week.

As James F. Jeffrey, who worked for Mr. Obama as ambassador to Turkey, then to Iraq, and now serves as Mr. Trump’s special envoy for Syria, noted several years ago, it’s debatable whether events would have played out differently if the United States had stayed in Iraq.

Could a residual force have prevented ISIS’s victories?” he asked in a Wall Street Journal essay five years ago. “With troops we would have had better intelligence on al Qaeda in Iraq and later ISIS, a more attentive Washington, and no doubt a better-trained Iraqi army. But the common argument that U.S. troops could have produced different Iraqi political outcomes is hogwash. The Iraqi sectarian divides, which ISIS exploited, run deep and were not susceptible to permanent remedy by our troops at their height, let alone by 5,000 trainers under Iraqi restraints.”

Mr. Trump may now be left to make the same argument about Syria: That nothing could have stopped Mr. Erdogan, that the Russians would benefit in any case, that there are other ways to push back at Iran. Perhaps history will side with him.

For now, however, he has given up most of what little leverage he had.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-followed-his-gut-on-syria-calamity-came-fast/ar-AAILbg6#image=AAIqEBq|9

Story 3: Behind Closed Doors Single Party Impeachment Inquiry Kangaroo Court Bars Other Representatives From Listening To Testimony — Videos

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz kicked out of impeachment inquiry hearing

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., an ardent supporter of President Trump, got the boot on Monday when he tried to sit in on the testimony of a former top National Security Council expert on Russia who was appearing on Capitol Hill as part of the House impeachment inquiry into the president.

Gaetz, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, attempted to attend the testimony of Fiona Hill, a former deputy assistant to the president, but was told that because he was not a member of the House Intelligence Committee that he had to leave. The House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees are conducting the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

A frustrated Gaetz aired his disappointment to reporters after being told he was not allowed to sit in on the hearing, venting his anger over what he says are “selective leaks” by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and questioning why he was not allowed to be present during Hill’s testimony. Gaetz added that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was involved in the impeachment inquiry.

“It’s not like I’m on agriculture,” Gaetz said. “What are the Democrats so afraid of?”

Gaetz followed up his comments with a tweet calling the impeachment inquiry a kangaroo court and using one of Trump’s favorite nicknames for the intelligence committee chairman, “Shifty Schiff.”

“Judiciary Chairman [Jerry Nadler] claimed to have begun the impeachment inquiry weeks ago,” Gaetz tweeted. “Now, his own Judiciary members aren’t even allowed to participate in it. And yes – my constituents want me actively involved in stopping the #KangarooCourtCoup run by Shifty Schiff.”

Other Republicans closely aligned with Trump continued on Monday to complain about Schiff and his handling of the impeachment inquiry – with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also lambasting the California Democrat for excluding some congressional Republicans from the testimonies and for leaking “cherry-picked” information from the closed-door hearings to the press.

“She was going to come voluntarily but he’s going to subpoena her I believe so he can ask certain questions and again keep those secret except for the certain things that he wants to leak, the cherry-picked information to the American people,” Jordan said of Schiff before Hill’s testimony.

TRUMP SAYS OBAMA ‘HIDING’ FROM QUESTIONS ABOUT BIDENS AND UKRAINE: ‘I THINK HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT IT’

Lee Wolosky, Hill’s attorney, tweeted on Monday that the former deputy assistant to the president had received a congressional subpoena.

“The tragedy here and the crime here is that the American people don’t get to see what’s going on in these up in these sessions,” Jordan said.

Hill’s testimony comes ahead of a planned Thursday appearance by Gordon Sondland, Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the European Union, and follows the revelation of a cache of text messages from top envoys that provide a vivid account of their work acting as intermediaries around the time Trump urged Ukraine’s new president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, to start investigations into a company linked to the family of a chief Democratic presidential rival, Joe Biden.

Sondland is set to tell lawmakers that he did understand the administration was offering Zelenskiy a White House visit in exchange for a public statement committing to investigations Trump wanted, according to the person, who demanded anonymity to discuss remarks not yet given.

But Sondland will say he did not know the company being talked about for an investigation, Burisma, was tied to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, the person said. Sondland understood the discussions about combating corruption to be part of a much broader and publicized Trump administration push that was widely shared, the person said.

 

One witness who may not be called before Congress is the still anonymous government whistleblower who touched off the impeachment inquiry. Top Democrats say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the president himself, are backing up the whistleblower’s account of what transpired during Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy.

Lawmakers have also grown deeply concerned about protecting the person from Trump’s threats over the matter and may not wish to risk exposing the whistleblower’s identity.

Schiff said Sunday, “We don’t need the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call, to tell us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that.” He added it “may not be necessary” to reveal the whistleblower’s identity as the House gathers evidence.

“Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected,” Schiff said.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/republican-rep-matt-gaetz-kicked-out-of-impeachment-inquiry-hearing

Story 2: Amazing Grace of Attorney General’s Defense of Religious Liberty — Videos

AG William Barr Nails The Destruction OF America’s Morality by “Militant Secularism”

US Attorney General William Barr – Notre Dame Speech

Why Has the West Been So Successful?

1. I Am the Lord Your God

2. No Other Gods

Religious Tolerance: Made in America

Were the Founders Religious?

Was America Founded to Be Secular?

Why We’re Losing Liberty

The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians

Where Are the Moderate Muslims?

Pakistan: Can Sharia and Freedom Coexist?

Radical Islam: The Most Dangerous Ideology

America’s Biggest Issues: Religious Freedom

The Left Ruins Everything

Was Jesus a Socialist?

Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?

Why No One Trusts the Mainstream Media

Jordan Peterson on the Belief in God

Who Dares Say He Believes in God?

On Claiming Belief In God: Discussion with Dennis Prager

“Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” with Donald Trump & Others (Opening)

Donald Trump makes speech to the UN general assembly

The Blaine Amendments: State Constitutions & School Choice

Blaine Amendments and “Sectarian” explained

Will the Supreme Court Strike Down the Blaine Amendment?

Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks to the Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame

South Bend, IN

~

Friday, October 11, 2019

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Tom, for your kind introduction. Bill and Roger, it’s great to be with you.

Thank you to the Notre Dame Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture for graciously extending an invitation to address you today. I’d also like to express gratitude to Tony de Nicola, whose generous support has shaped – and continues to shape – countless minds through examination of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition.

Today, I would like to share some thoughts with you about religious liberty in America. It’s an important priority in this Administration and for this Department of Justice.

We have set up a task force within the Department with different components that have equities in this area, including the Solicitor General’s Office, the Civil Division, the Office of Legal Counsel, and other offices. We have regular meetings. We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the Establishment Clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith, or cases where states adopt laws that impinge upon the free exercise of religion.

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

In the 20th century, our form of free society faced a severe test.

There had always been the question whether a democracy so solicitous of individual freedom could stand up against a regimented totalitarian state.

That question was answered with a resounding “yes” as the United States stood up against and defeated, first fascism, and then communism.

But in the 21st century, we face an entirely different kind of challenge.

The challenge we face is precisely what the Founding Fathers foresaw would be our supreme test as a free society.

They never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.

By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition.

These practical statesmen understood that individuals, while having the potential for great good, also had the capacity for great evil.

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.

No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity.

But, if you rely on the coercive power of government to impose restraints, this will inevitably lead to a government that is too controlling, and you will end up with no liberty, just tyranny.

On the other hand, unless you have some effective restraint, you end up with something equally dangerous – licentiousness – the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good. This is just another form of tyranny – where the individual is enslaved by his appetites, and the possibility of any healthy community life crumbles.

Edmund Burke summed up this point in his typically colorful language:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites…. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

So the Founders decided to take a gamble. They called it a great experiment.

They would leave “the People” broad liberty, limit the coercive power of the government, and place their trust in self-discipline and the virtue of the American people.

In the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”

This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings.

Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves – freely obeying the dictates of inwardly-possessed and commonly-shared moral values. And to control willful human beings, with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being.

In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.

As John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

As Father John Courtney Murray observed, the American tenet was notthat:

“Free government is inevitable, only that it is possible, and that its possibility can be realized only when the people as a whole are inwardly governed by the recognized imperatives of the universal moral order.”

How does religion promote the moral discipline and virtue needed to support free government?

First, it gives us the right rules to live by. The Founding generation were Christians. They believed that the Judeo-Christian moral system corresponds to the true nature of man. Those moral precepts start with the two great commandments – to Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind; and to Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.

But they also include the guidance of natural law – a real, transcendent moral order which flows from God’s eternal law – the divine wisdom by which the whole of creation is ordered. The eternal law is impressed upon, and reflected in, all created things.

From the nature of things we can, through reason, experience, discern standards of right and wrong that exist independent of human will.

Modern secularists dismiss this idea of morality as other-worldly superstition imposed by a kill-joy clergy. In fact, Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct.

They reflect the rules that are best for man, not in the by and by, but in the here and now. They are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.

By the same token, violations of these moral laws have bad, real-world consequences for man and society. We may not pay the price immediately, but over time the harm is real.

Religion helps promote moral discipline within society. Because man is fallen, we don’t automatically conform ourselves to moral rules even when we know they are good for us.

But religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what is good. It does not do this primarily by formal laws – that is, through coercion. It does this through moral education and by informing society’s informal rules – its customs and traditions which reflect the wisdom and experience of the ages.

In other words, religion helps frame moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline.

I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.

On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.

On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.

By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.

Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.

I will not dwell on all the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

Among these militant secularists are many so-called “progressives.” But where is the progress?

We are told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? And what is a system of values that can sustain human social life?

The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.

Scholarship suggests that religion has been integral to the development and thriving of Homo sapiens since we emerged roughly 50,000 years ago. It is just for the past few hundred years we have experimented in living without religion.

We hear much today about our humane values. But, in the final analysis, what undergirds these values? What commands our adherence to them?

What we call “values” today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.

Now, there have been times and places where the traditional moral order has been shaken.

In the past, societies – like the human body – seem to have a self-healing mechanism – a self-correcting mechanism that gets things back on course if things go too far.

The consequences of moral chaos become too pressing. The opinion of decent people rebels. They coalesce and rally against obvious excess. Periods of moral entrenchment follow periods of excess.

This is the idea of the pendulum. We have all thought that after a while the “pendulum will swing back.”

But today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back.

First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy, but also drown out and silence opposing voices, and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissenters.

One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.

Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake – social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

The pervasiveness and power of our high-tech popular culture fuels apostasy in another way. It provides an unprecedented degree of distraction.

Part of the human condition is that there are big questions that should stare us in the face. Are we created or are we purely material accidents? Does our life have any meaning or purpose? But, as Blaise Pascal observed, instead of grappling with these questions, humans can be easily distracted from thinking about the “final things.”

Indeed, we now live in the age of distraction where we can envelop ourselves in a world of digital stimulation and universal connectivity. And we have almost limitless ways of indulging all our physical appetites.

There is another modern phenomenon that suppresses society’s self-corrective mechanisms – that makes it harder for society to restore itself.

In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social costs of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct becomes so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path that it is on.

But today – in the face of all the increasing pathologies – instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of alleviator of bad fconsequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility.

So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.

The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.

The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and the ersatz father to their children.

The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with the wreckage. While we think we are solving problems, we are underwriting them.

We start with an untrammeled freedom and we end up as dependents of a coercive state on which we depend.

Interestingly, this idea of the State as the alleviator of bad consequences has given rise to a new moral system that goes hand-in-hand with the secularization of society.  It can be called the system of “macro-morality.”  It is in some ways an inversion of Christian morality.

Christianity teaches a micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation.

The new secular religion teaches macro-morality. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems.

This system allows us to not worry so much about the strictures on our private lives, while we find salvation on the picket-line. We can signal our finely-tuned moral sensibilities by demonstrating for this cause or that.

Something happened recently that crystalized the difference between these moral systems. I was attending Mass at a parish I did not usually go to in Washington, D.C.  At the end of Mass, the Chairman of the Social Justice Committee got up to give his report to the parish. He pointed to the growing homeless problem in D.C. and explained that more mobile soup kitchens were needed to feed them. This being a Catholic church, I expected him to call for volunteers to go out and provide this need. Instead, he recounted all the visits that the Committee had made to the D.C. government to lobby for higher taxes and more spending to fund mobile soup kitchen.

A third phenomenon which makes it difficult for the pendulum to swing back is the way law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy.

Law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways.

First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.

At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia. The list goes on.

More recently, we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.

The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.

This reminds me of how some Roman emperors could not leave their loyal Christian subjects in peace but would mandate that they violate their conscience by offering religious sacrifice to the emperor as a god.

Similarly, militant secularists today do not have a live and let live spirit – they are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.

For example, the last Administration sought to force religious employers, including Catholic religious orders, to violate their sincerely held religious views by funding contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in their health plans. Similarly, California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights.

This refusal to accommodate the free exercise of religion is relatively recent. Just 25 years ago, there was broad consensus in our society that our laws should accommodate religious belief.

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA. The purpose of the statute was to promote maximum accommodation to religion when the government adopted broad policies that could impinge on religious practice.

At the time, RFRA was not controversial. It was introduced by Chuck Schumer with 170 cosponsors in the House, and was introduced by Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch with 59 additional cosponsors in the Senate. It passed by voice vote in the House and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate.

Recently, as the process of secularization has accelerated, RFRA has come under assault, and the idea of religious accommodation has fallen out of favor.

Because this Administration firmly supports accommodation of religion, the battleground has shifted to the states. Some state governments are now attempting to compel religious individuals and entities to subscribe to practices, or to espouse viewpoints, that are incompatible with their religion.

Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools. To me, this is the most serious challenge to religious liberty.

For anyone who has a religious faith, by far the most important part of exercising that faith is the teaching of that religion to our children. The passing on of the faith. There is no greater gift we can give our children and no greater expression of love.

For the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.

Yet here is where the battle is being joined, and I see the secularists are attacking on three fronts.

The first front relates to the content of public school curriculum. Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional religious principles according to which parents are attempting to raise their children. They often do so without any opt out for religious families.

Thus, for example, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching. Similar laws have been passed in California and Illinois. And the Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

Indeed, in some cases, the schools may not even warn parents about lessons they plan to teach on controversial subjects relating to sexual behavior and relationships.

This puts parents who dissent from the secular orthodoxy to a difficult choice: Try to scrape together the money for private school or home schooling, or allow their children to be inculcated with messages that they fundamentally reject.

A second axis of attack in the realm of education are state policies designed to starve religious schools of generally-available funds and encouraging students to choose secular options.  Montana, for example, created a program that provided tax credits to those who donated to a scholarship program that underprivileged students could use to attend private school.  The point of the program was to provide greater parental and student choice in education and to provide better educations to needy youth.

But Montana expressly excluded religiously-affiliated private schools from the program.  And when that exclusion was challenged in court by parents who wanted to use the scholarships to attend a nondenominational Christian school, the Montana Supreme Court required the state to eliminate the program rather than allow parents to use scholarships for religious schools.

It justified this action by pointing to a provision in Montana’s State Constitution commonly referred to as a “Blaine Amendment.”  Blaine Amendments were passed at a time of rampant anti-Catholic animus in this country, and typically disqualify religious institutions from receiving any direct or indirect payments from a state’s funds.

The case is now in the Supreme Court, and we filed a brief explaining why Montana’s Blaine Amendment violates the First Amendment.

A third kind of assault on religious freedom in education have been recent efforts to use state laws to force religious schools to adhere to secular orthodoxy. For example, right here in Indiana, a teacher sued the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis for directing the Catholic schools within his diocese that they could not employ teachers in same-sex marriages because the example of those same-sex marriages would undermine the schools’ teaching on the Catholic view of marriage and complementarity between the sexes.

This lawsuit clearly infringes the First Amendment rights of the Archdiocese by interfering both with its expressive association and with its church autonomy. The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the state court making these points, and we hope that the state court will soon dismiss the case.

Taken together, these cases paint a disturbing picture. We see the State requiring local public schools to insert themselves into contentious social debates, without regard for the religious views of their students or parents. In effect, these states are requiring local communities to make their public schools inhospitable to families with traditional religious values; those families are implicitly told that they should conform or leave.

At the same time, pressure is placed on religious schools to abandon their religious convictions. Simply because of their religious character, they are starved of funds – students who would otherwise choose to attend them are told they may only receive scholarships if they turn their sights elsewhere.

Simultaneously, they are threatened in tort and, eventually, will undoubtedly be threatened with denial of accreditation if they adhere to their religious character.  If these measures are successful, those with religious convictions will become still more marginalized.

I do not mean to suggest that there is no hope for moral renewal in our country.

But we cannot sit back and just hope the pendulum is going to swing back toward sanity.

As Catholics, we are committed to the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great.

And we know that the first thing we have to do to promote renewal is to ensure that we are putting our principles into practice in our own personal private lives.

We understand that only by transforming ourselves can we transform the world beyond ourselves.

This is tough work. It is hard to resist the constant seductions of our contemporary society. This is where we need grace, prayer, and the help of our church.

Beyond this, we must place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the faculties to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

The times are hostile to this. Public agencies, including public schools, are becoming secularized and increasingly are actively promoting moral relativism.

If ever there was a need for a resurgence of Catholic education – and more generally religiously-affiliated schools – it is today.

I think we should do all we can to promote and support authentic Catholic education at all levels.

Finally, as lawyers, we should be particularly active in the struggle that is being waged against religion on the legal plane.

We must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.

I can assure you that, as long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will be at the forefront of this effort, ready to fight for the most cherished of our liberties: the freedom to live according to our faith.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today. And God bless you and Notre Dame.

https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-william-p-barr-delivers-remarks-law-school-and-de-nicola-center-ethics

 

William Barr’s right about left’s designs on religious freedom

– The Washington Times – Thursday, October 17, 2019

As the Caribbean saying goes, “I chucked a rock in the pen and a pig squealed.”

This explains all the frenzied squealing and indignant grunting we heard in response to the speech Attorney General William Barr gave last week to law students at the University of Notre Dame about the increasing hostility toward religious liberty in America.

Mr. Barr raised alarm over “the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today.”

For anyone thinking this is some random force or natural course of history, he jolted a harsh warning.

“This is not decay. It is organized destruction,” he said.

“Secularists and their allies among the ‘progressives’ have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

Anyone who missed the speech should find it and watch it. Anyone with a child in school should print out the speech and send it to him or her — or any of the other 16 genders schools are offering for students these days.

The smorgasbord of gender options inspires snorts of laughter among serious people, vexes anyone who believes in actual science and causes others to scoff and walk away.

But the infidels and infantiles who are running higher education today must be confronted with more than just laughter and dismissal. They are, after all, the ones destroying America by poisoning the minds of children. That is why the attorney general’s speech at Notre Dame is so important.

It is also why so many boars in the media took such offense to the speech and began squealing like a herd of mad swine racing for the lake.

One magazine cried that Mr. Barr is “neck deep in extremist Catholic institutions.”

For defending religious liberty?

Oh my. They make precisely William Barr’s point for him.

A major newspaper opined: “God is now Trump’s co-conspirator.” It was not meant as a compliment, again proving Mr. Barr’s point.

“Is this Barr’s cry for help?” pondered another major newspaper.

All the squealing proved not only Mr. Barr’s point about the rabid intolerance of religious liberty, but also that so many of the “intellectuals” in charge of American magazines and newspapers have already been poisoned by the nonsense and dishonesty dispensed by higher education these days.

These people are not only anti-religion, but they also are anti-science, anti-history and anti-liberty. Alexander Hamilton would weep if he knew the power these people now hold in his beloved republic.

Mr. Hamilton also would have applauded Mr. Barr’s speech. He and all the Founders would have recognized the speech as a flawless continuation of the endless debates they had about the nature of man, liberty and religion.

Picking up on the Founders’ discussion of man’s capacity for both “great good” and “great evil,” Mr. Barr said the “coercive power of government” cannot alone maintain a civil society. There must be other — more free and voluntary — guides of citizens’ behavior.

The notion of self-governance, he said, has dual meaning.

“It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.”

Particularly alarming to Mr. Barr is the lust with which secular zealots go after personal, private religion.

“Militant secularists today do not have a ‘live and let live’ spirit,” he said. “They are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.”

It is that very lust that leads political monsters to create untamable leviathans like Obamacare, which forces the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their most precious religious convictions.

Is it any surprise, then, to see citizens turn on one another with the same evil lust?

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/17/william-barrs-religious-hostility-speech-hits-sque/

 

 

Bill Barr ‘Gets’ Religion

The attorney general gives a speech on secularism, and the left goes bananas.

Opinion: At Notre Dame, Bill Barr Takes on the Secularists

Opinion: At Notre Dame, Bill Barr Takes on the Secularists
Main Street: During a speech at Notre Dame law school on October 11, 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr explained how secularists are assaulting religious freedom in an effort to break down traditional moral values and instead impose their own orthodoxy. Image: Robert Franklin/Associated Press

For Notre Dame fans, this football weekend was a twofer. Not only did the Irish beat a longtime rival, the University of Southern California, on Saturday, the campus was treated to a sight it had never before seen: the attorney general of the United States, at a pregame tailgater, serenading faculty, students and fans with his bagpipes.

Turns out that was William Barr’s second performance on campus. The first came at the law school Friday, when he delivered a bracing speech on the role of religion in the American story of freedom.

The attorney general advanced two broad propositions. First, the waning of religion’s influence in American life has left more of her citizens vulnerable to what Tocqueville called the “soft despotism” of government dependency. Second, today’s secularists are decidedly not of the live-and-let-live variety.

“The secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor,” he said. “It is taking on all the trappings of religion, including inquisitions and excommunication. Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake—social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.”

Right out of central casting, critics stepped forward to prove his point. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman accused Mr. Barr of “religious bigotry” and described his words as a “pogrom type speech.”

Political ethicist and professional attention seeker Richard Painter tapped out a series of even more furious tweets, here calling the speech the latest episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there suggesting Mr. Barr isn’t much of a Christian, here again saying Mr. Barr sounded like “vintage Goebbels.” Over at MSNBC, meanwhile, retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Joy Reid the attorney general is “Torquemada in a business suit,” a reference to the Spanish Inquisition’s grand inquisitor.

This is what we have come to expect when someone in public life mentions religion in a positive light. Many didn’t like Mr. Barr’s blaming secularism for social pathologies such as drug addiction, family breakdown and increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males. Yet few engaged his more arresting contention, which is that all these problems have spiritual roots. Whereas religion addresses such challenges by stressing personal responsibility, Mr. Barr argued, the state’s answer is merely to try to alleviate “bad consequences.”

“So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion,” he said. “The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites. The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the state to set itself up as an ersatz husband for the single mother and an ersatz father for the children. The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage—and while we think we’re solving problems, we are underwriting them.”

Vincent Phillip Muñoz, a Notre Dame professor, notes there was nothing particularly Catholic about this speech. Like Washington in his Farewell Address, he says, Mr. Barr focused on the irreplaceable role of religion in cultivating the morality citizens need to be capable of self-government.

“The speech wasn’t first and foremost about religious freedom,” says Mr. Muñoz. “It was about the human and social consequences of the new secular morality, and what happens when the state views its citizens not only in purely material terms, but as subjects who can’t really govern themselves.”

Even those who strongly disagree with Mr. Barr ought to have found this an invitation for thoughtful and vigorous debate. But rather than engage, some imply there is something unseemly about an attorney general’s even speaking at a Catholic university. Given the hostility that holding such a conversation engenders on campuses today, perhaps America can count itself fortunate it still has a university where this can happen.

Carter Snead, the law professor who invited Mr. Barr, puts it this way: “At Notre Dame, we are not afraid to explore the hard questions about God, religion and America together in friendship, especially on those matters about which people strongly disagree.”

Freedom of religion

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People praying to Lord Brahma, a Hindu deity, at the Erawan shrineBangkok

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It also includes the freedom to change one’s religion or beliefs.[1]

Freedom of religion is considered by many people and most of the nations to be a fundamental human right.[2][3] In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths. Freedom of belief is different. It allows the right to believe what a person, group or religion wishes, but it does not necessarily allow the right to practice the religion or belief openly and outwardly in a public manner.

History

Minerva as a symbol of enlightened wisdom protects the believers of all religions (Daniel Chodowiecki, 1791)

Historically, freedom of religion has been used to refer to the tolerance of different theological systems of belief, while freedom of worship has been defined as freedom of individual action. Each of these have existed to varying degrees. While many countries have accepted some form of religious freedom, this has also often been limited in practice through punitive taxation, repressive social legislation, and political disenfranchisement. Compare examples of individual freedom in Italy or the Muslim tradition of dhimmis, literally “protected individuals” professing an officially tolerated non-Muslim religion.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) guarantees freedom of religion, as long as religious activities do not infringe on public order in ways detrimental to society.

In Antiquity, a syncretic point of view often allowed communities of traders to operate under their own customs. When street mobs of separate quarters clashed in a Hellenistic or Romancity, the issue was generally perceived to be an infringement of community rights.

Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenid Empire ca. 550 BC, and initiated a general policy of permitting religious freedom throughout the empire, documenting this on the Cyrus Cylinder.[4][5]

Some of the historical exceptions have been in regions where one of the revealed religions has been in a position of power: Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Others have been where the established order has felt threatened, as shown in the trial of Socrates in 399 BC or where the ruler has been deified, as in Rome, and refusal to offer token sacrifice was similar to refusing to take an oath of allegiance. This was the core for resentment and the persecution of early Christian communities.

Freedom of religious worship was established in the Buddhist Maurya Empire of ancient India by Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BC, which was encapsulated in the Edicts of Ashoka.

Greek-Jewish clashes at Cyrene in 73 AD and 117 AD and in Alexandria in 115 AD provide examples of cosmopolitan cities as scenes of tumult.

The Romans tolerated most religions, including Judaism and encouraged local subjects to continue worshipping their own gods. They did not however, tolerate Christianity until it was legalised by the Roman emperor Galerius in 311. The Edict of Milan guaranteed freedom of religion in the Roman Empire until the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, which outlawed all religions except Christianity.

Muslim world

Following a period of fighting lasting around a hundred years before 620 AD which mainly involved Arab and Jewish inhabitants of Medina (then known as Yathrib), religious freedom for Muslims, Jews and pagans was declared by Muhammad in the Constitution of Medina. The Islamic Caliphate later guaranteed religious freedom under the conditions that non-Muslim communities accept dhimmi status and their adult males pay the punitive jizya tax instead of the zakat paid by Muslim citizens.[6] Though Dhimmis were not given the same political rights as Muslims, they nevertheless did enjoy equality under the laws of property, contract, and obligation.[7][8][9]

Religious pluralism existed in classical Islamic ethics and Sharia, as the religious laws and courts of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early CaliphateAl-AndalusIndian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system.[10][11] In medieval Islamic societies, the qadi (Islamic judges) usually could not interfere in the matters of non-Muslims unless the parties voluntarily choose to be judged according to Islamic law, thus the dhimmi communities living in Islamic states usually had their own laws independent from the Sharia law, such as the Jews who would have their own Halakha courts.[12]

Dhimmis were allowed to operate their own courts following their own legal systems in cases that did not involve other religious groups, or capital offences or threats to public order.[13] Non-Muslims were allowed to engage in religious practices that were usually forbidden by Islamic law, such as the consumption of alcohol and pork, as well as religious practices which Muslims found repugnant, such as the Zoroastrian practice of incestuous “self-marriage” where a man could marry his mother, sister or daughter. According to the famous Islamic legal scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292–1350), non-Muslims had the right to engage in such religious practices even if it offended Muslims, under the conditions that such cases not be presented to Islamic Sharia courts and that these religious minorities believed that the practice in question is permissible according to their religion.[14]

Despite Dhimmis enjoying special statuses under the Caliphates, they were not considered equals, and sporadic persecutions of non-Muslim groups did occur in the history of the Caliphates.[15][16][17]

India

Ancient Jews fleeing from persecution in their homeland 2,500 years ago settled in India and never faced anti-Semitism.[18] Freedom of religion edicts have been found written during Ashoka the Great‘s reign in the 3rd century BC. Freedom to practise, preach and propagate any religion is a constitutional right in Modern India. Most major religious festivals of the main communities are included in the list of national holidays.

Although India is an 80% Hindu country, India is a secular state without any state religions.

Many scholars and intellectuals believe that India’s predominant religion, Hinduism, has long been a most tolerant religion.[19] Rajni Kothari, founder of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies has written, “[India] is a country built on the foundations of a civilisation that is fundamentally non-religious.”[20]

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile, said that religious tolerance of ‘Aryabhoomi,’ a reference to India found in the Mahabharata, has been in existence in this country from thousands of years. “Not only Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism which are the native religions but also Christianity and Islam have flourished here. Religious tolerance is inherent in Indian tradition,” the Dalai Lama said.[21]

Freedom of religion in the Indian subcontinent is exemplified by the reign of King Piyadasi (304–232 BC) (Ashoka). One of King Ashoka’s main concerns was to reform governmental institutes and exercise moral principles in his attempt to create a just and humane society. Later he promoted the principles of Buddhism, and the creation of a just, understanding and fair society was held as an important principle for many ancient rulers of this time in the East.

The importance of freedom of worship in India was encapsulated in an inscription of Ashoka:

King Piyadasi (Ashok) dear to the Gods, honours all sects, the ascetics (hermits) or those who dwell at home, he honours them with charity and in other ways. But the King, dear to the Gods, attributes less importance to this charity and these honours than to the vow of seeing the reign of virtues, which constitutes the essential part of them. For all these virtues there is a common source, modesty of speech. That is to say, one must not exalt one’s creed discrediting all others, nor must one degrade these others without legitimate reasons. One must, on the contrary, render to other creeds the honour befitting them.

On the main Asian continent, the Mongols were tolerant of religions. People could worship as they wished freely and openly.

After the arrival of Europeans, Christians in their zeal to convert local as per belief in conversion as service of God, have also been seen to fall into frivolous methods since their arrival, though by and large there are hardly any reports of law and order disturbance from mobs with Christian beliefs, except perhaps in the north eastern region of India.[22]

Freedom of religion in contemporary India is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25 of the nation’s constitution. Accordingly, every citizen of India has a right to profess, practice and propagate their religions peacefully.[23] Vishwa Hindu Parishad counters this argument by saying that evangelical Christians are forcefully (or through money) converting rural, illiterate populations and they are only trying to stop this.

In September 2010, the Indian state of Kerala‘s State Election Commissioner announced that “Religious heads cannot issue calls to vote for members of a particular community or to defeat the nonbelievers”.[24] The Catholic Church comprising Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites used to give clear directions to the faithful on exercising their franchise during elections through pastoral letters issued by bishops or council of bishops. The pastoral letter issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) on the eve of the poll urged the faithful to shun atheists.[24]

Even today, most Indians celebrate all religious festivals with equal enthusiasm and respect. Hindu festivals like Deepavali and Holi, Muslim festivals like Eid al-FitrEid-Ul-AdhaMuharram, Christian festivals like Christmas and other festivals like Buddha PurnimaMahavir Jayanti, Gur Purab etc. are celebrated and enjoyed by all Indians.

Europe

Religious intolerance

Nineteenth century allegorical statue on the Congress Column in Belgium depicting religious freedom

Most Roman Catholic kingdoms kept a tight rein on religious expression throughout the Middle Ages. Jews were alternately tolerated and persecuted, the most notable examples of the latter being the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492. Some of those who remained and converted were tried as heretics in the Inquisition for allegedly practicing Judaism in secret. Despite the persecution of Jews, they were the most tolerated non-Catholic faith in Europe.

However, the latter was in part a reaction to the growing movement that became the Reformation. As early as 1380, John Wycliffe in England denied transubstantiation and began his translation of the Bible into English. He was condemned in a Papal Bull in 1410, and all his books were burned.

In 1414, Jan Hus, a Bohemian preacher of reformation, was given a safe conduct by the Holy Roman Emperor to attend the Council of Constance. Not entirely trusting in his safety, he made his will before he left. His forebodings proved accurate, and he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. The Council also decreed that Wycliffe’s remains be disinterred and cast out. This decree was not carried out until 1429.

After the fall of the city of Granada, Spain, in 1492, the Muslim population was promised religious freedom by the Treaty of Granada, but that promise was short-lived. In 1501, Granada’s Muslims were given an ultimatum to either convert to Christianity or to emigrate. The majority converted, but only superficially, continuing to dress and speak as they had before and to secretly practice Islam. The Moriscos (converts to Christianity) were ultimately expelled from Spain between 1609 (Castile) and 1614 (rest of Spain), by Philip III.

Martin Luther published his famous 95 Theses in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. His major aim was theological, summed up in the three basic dogmas of Protestantism:

  • The Bible only is infallible.
  • Every Christian can interpret it.
  • Human sins are so wrongful that no deed or merit, only God’s grace, can lead to salvation.

In consequence, Luther hoped to stop the sale of indulgences and to reform the Church from within. In 1521, he was given the chance to recant at the Diet of Worms before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. After he refused to recant, he was declared heretic. Partly for his own protection, he was sequestered on the Wartburg in the possessions of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, where he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated by Papal Bull in 1521.

However, the movement continued to gain ground in his absence and spread to Switzerland. Huldrych Zwingli preached reform in Zürich from 1520 to 1523. He opposed the sale of indulgences, celibacy, pilgrimages, pictures, statues, relics, altars, and organs. This culminated in outright war between the Swiss cantons that accepted Protestantism and the Catholics. The Catholics were victorious, and Zwingli was killed in battle in 1531. The Catholic cantons were magnanimous in victory.[citation needed]

The defiance of Papal authority proved contagious, and in 1533, when Henry VIII of England was excommunicated for his divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn, he promptly established a state church with bishops appointed by the crown. This was not without internal opposition, and Thomas More, who had been his Lord Chancellor, was executed in 1535 for opposition to Henry.

In 1535, the Swiss canton of Geneva became Protestant. In 1536, the Bernese imposed the reformation on the canton of Vaud by conquest. They sacked the cathedral in Lausanne and destroyed all its art and statuary. John Calvin, who had been active in Geneva was expelled in 1538 in a power struggle, but he was invited back in 1540.

A U.S. postage stamp commemorating religious freedom and the Flushing Remonstrance

The same kind of seesaw back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism was evident in England when Mary I of England returned that country briefly to the Catholic fold in 1553 and persecuted Protestants. However, her half-sister, Elizabeth I of England was to restore the Church of England in 1558, this time permanently, and began to persecute Catholics again. The King James Bible commissioned by King James I of England and published in 1611 proved a landmark for Protestant worship, with official Catholic forms of worship being banned.

In France, although peace was made between Protestants and Catholics at the Treaty of Saint Germain in 1570, persecution continued, most notably in the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day on 24 August 1572, in which thousands of Protestants throughout France were killed. A few years before, at the “Michelade” of Nîmes in 1567, Protestants had massacred the local Catholic clergy.

Early steps and attempts in the way of tolerance

The cross of the war memorial and a menorah coexist in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England

The Norman Kingdom of Sicily under Roger II was characterized by its multi-ethnic nature and religious tolerance. Normans, Jews, Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and native Sicilians lived in harmony.[25][26][failed verification] Rather than exterminate the Muslims of Sicily, Roger II’s grandson Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1215–1250) allowed them to settle on the mainland and build mosques. Not least, he enlisted them in his – Christian – army and even into his personal bodyguards.[27][need quotation to verify][28][need quotation to verify]

Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) enjoyed religious freedom between 1436 and 1520, and became one of the most liberal countries of the Christian world during that period of time. The so-called Basel Compacts of 1436 declared the freedom of religion and peace between Catholics and Utraquists. In 1609 Emperor Rudolf II granted Bohemia greater religious liberty with his Letter of Majesty. The privileged position of the Catholic Church in the Czech kingdom was firmly established after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Gradually freedom of religion in Bohemian lands came to an end and Protestants fled or were expelled from the country. A devout Catholic, Emperor Ferdinand II forcibly converted Austrian and Bohemian Protestants.[citation needed]

In the meantime, in Germany Philip Melanchthon drafted the Augsburg Confession as a common confession for the Lutherans and the free territories. It was presented to Charles V in 1530.

In the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V agreed to tolerate Lutheranism in 1555 at the Peace of Augsburg. Each state was to take the religion of its prince, but within those states, there was not necessarily religious tolerance. Citizens of other faiths could relocate to a more hospitable environment.

In France, from the 1550s, many attempts to reconcile Catholics and Protestants and to establish tolerance failed because the State was too weak to enforce them. It took the victory of prince Henry IV of France, who had converted into Protestantism, and his accession to the throne, to impose religious tolerance formalized in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. It would remain in force for over 80 years until its revocation in 1685 by Louis XIV of France. Intolerance remained the norm until Louis XVI, who signed the Edict of Versailles (1787), then the constitutional text of 24 December 1789, granting civilian rights to Protestants. The French Revolution then abolished state religion and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) guarantees freedom of religion, as long as religious activities do not infringe on public order in ways detrimental to society.

Early laws and legal guarantees for religious freedom

Principality of Transylvania

In 1558, the Transylvanian Diet’s Edict of Torda declared free practice of both Catholicism and Lutheranism. Calvinism, however, was prohibited. Calvinism was included among the accepted religions in 1564. Ten years after the first law, in 1568, the same Diet, under the chairmanship of King of Hungary, and Prince of Transylvania John Sigismund Zápolya (John II.),[29] following the teaching of Ferenc Dávid,[30] the founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania,[31] extended the freedom to all religions, declaring that “It is not allowed to anybody to intimidate anybody with captivity or expelling for his religion“. However, it was more than a religious tolerance; it declared the equality of the religions, prohibiting all kinds of acts from authorities or from simple people, which could harm other groups or people because of their religious beliefs. The emergence in social hierarchy wasn’t dependent on the religion of the person thus Transylvania had also Catholic and Protestant monarchs, who all respected the Edict of Torda. The lack of state religion was unique for centuries in Europe. Therefore, the Edict of Torda is considered as the first legal guarantee of religious freedom in Christian Europe.[32]

Declaration, by Ferenc Dávid of Religious and Conscience Freedom in the Diet of Torda in 1568, painting by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch

Act of Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience: His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he – together with his realm – legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearings is by the word of God.

— Diet at Torda, 1568 : King John Sigismund[33]

Four religions (CatholicismLutheranismCalvinismUnitarianism) were named as accepted religions (religo recepta), having their representatives in the Transylvanian Diet, while the other religions, like the OrthodoxsSabbatariansand Anabaptists were tolerated churches (religio tolerata), which meant that they had no power in the law making and no veto rights in the Diet, but they were not persecuted in any way. Thanks to the Edict of Torda, from the last decades of the 16th Century Transylvania was the only place in Europe, where so many religions could live together in harmony and without persecution.[34]

This religious freedom ended however for some of the religions of Transylvania in 1638. After this year the Sabbatarians begun to be persecuted, and forced to convert to one of the accepted Christian religions of Transylvania.[35]

Habsburg rule in Transylvania

Also the Unitarians (despite of being one of the “accepted religions”) started to be put under an ever-growing pressure, which culminated after the Habsburg conquest of Transylvania (1691),[36] Also after the Habsburg occupation, the new Austrian masters forced in the middle of the 18th century the Hutterite Anabaptists (who found a safe heaven in 1621 in Transylvania, after the persecution to which they were subjected in the Austrian provinces and Moravia) to convert to Catholicism or to migrate in another country, which finally the Anabaptists did, leaving Transylvania and Hungary for Wallachia, than from there to Russia, and finally in the United States.[37]

Netherlands

In the Union of Utrecht (20 January 1579), personal freedom of religion was declared in the struggle between the Northern Netherlands and Spain. The Union of Utrecht was an important step in the establishment of the Dutch Republic (from 1581 to 1795). Under Calvinist leadership, the Netherlands became the most tolerant country in Europe. It granted asylum to persecuted religious minorities, such as the Huguenots, the Dissenters, and the Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal.[38] The establishment of a Jewish community in the Netherlands and New Amsterdam (present-day New York) during the Dutch Republic is an example of religious freedom. When New Amsterdam surrendered to the English in 1664, freedom of religion was guaranteed in the Articles of Capitulation. It benefitted also the Jews who had landed on Manhattan Island in 1654, fleeing Portuguese persecution in Brazil. During the 18th century, other Jewish communities were established at Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, and Richmond.[39]

Intolerance of dissident forms of Protestantism also continued, as evidenced by the exodus of the Pilgrims, who sought refuge, first in the Netherlands, and ultimately in America, founding Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, was involved in a case which had a profound effect upon future American laws and those of England. In a classic case of jury nullification, the jury refused to convict William Penn of preaching a Quaker sermon, which was illegal. Even though the jury was imprisoned for their acquittal, they stood by their decision and helped establish the freedom of religion.[citation needed]

Poland

Original act of the Warsaw Confederation1573. The beginning of religious freedom in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The General Charter of Jewish Liberties known as the Statute of Kalisz was issued by the Duke of Greater Poland Boleslaus the Pious on 8 September 1264 in Kalisz. The statute served as the basis for the legal position of Jews in Poland and led to the creation of the Yiddish-speaking autonomous Jewish nation until 1795. The statute granted exclusive jurisdiction of Jewish courts over Jewish matters and established a separate tribunal for matters involving Christians and Jews. Additionally, it guaranteed personal liberties and safety for Jews including freedom of religion, travel, and trade. The statute was ratified by subsequent Polish Kings: Casimir III of Polandin 1334, Casimir IV of Poland in 1453 and Sigismund I of Poland in 1539. Poland freed Jews from direct royal authority, opening up enormous administrative and economic opportunities to them.[40]

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The right to worship freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the future Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth throughout the 15th and early 16th century, however, complete freedom of religion was officially recognized in 1573 during the Warsaw Confederation. Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth kept religious freedom laws during an era when religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of Europe.[41]

United States

Most of the early colonies were generally not tolerant of dissident forms of worship, with Maryland being one of the exceptions. For example, Roger Williams found it necessary to found a new colony in Rhode Island to escape persecution in the theocratically dominated colony of Massachusetts. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were the most active of the New England persecutors of Quakers, and the persecuting spirit was shared by Plymouth Colony and the colonies along the Connecticut river.[42] In 1660, one of the most notable victims of the religious intolerance was English Quaker Mary Dyer, who was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony.[42] As one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs, the hanging of Dyer on the Boston gallows marked the beginning of the end of the Puritan theocracy and New England independence from English rule, and in 1661 King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism.[43] Anti-Catholic sentiment appeared in New England with the first Pilgrim and Puritan settlers.[44] In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting any Jesuit Roman Catholic priests from entering territory under Puritan jurisdiction.[45] Any suspected person who could not clear himself was to be banished from the colony; a second offense carried a death penalty.[46] The Pilgrims of New England held radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas.[47] Christmas observance was outlawed in Boston in 1659.[48] The ban by the Puritans was revoked in 1681 by an English appointed governor, however it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became common in the Boston region.[49]

Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle of government in the founding of the colony of Maryland, founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, in 1634.[50] Fifteen years later (1649), the Maryland Toleration Act, drafted by Lord Baltimore, provided: “No person or persons…shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof.” The Act allowed freedom of worship for all Trinitarian Christians in Maryland, but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed during the Cromwellian Era with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed.[51] In 1657, the Catholic Lord Baltimore regained control after making a deal with the colony’s Protestants, and in 1658 the Act was again passed by the colonial assembly. This time, it would last more than thirty years, until 1692[52] when, after Maryland’s Protestant Revolution of 1689, freedom of religion was again rescinded.[50][53] In addition, in 1704, an Act was passed “to prevent the growth of Popery in this Province”, preventing Catholics from holding political office.[53] Full religious toleration would not be restored in Maryland until the American Revolution, when Maryland’s Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the American Declaration of Independence.

Rhode Island (1636), Connecticut (1636), New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (1682) – founded by Protestants Roger Williams, Thomas Hooker, and William Penn, respectively – combined the democratic form of government which had been developed by the Puritans and the Separatist Congregationalists in Massachusetts with religious freedom.[54][55][56][57] These colonies became sanctuaries for persecuted religious minorities. Catholics and later on Jews also had full citizenship and free exercise of their religions.[58][59][60] Williams, Hooker, Penn, and their friends were firmly convinced that freedom of conscience was the will of God. Williams gave the most profound argument: As faith is the free work of the Holy Spirit, it cannot be forced on a person. Therefore, strict separation of church and state has to be kept.[61] Pennsylvania was the only colony that retained unlimited religious freedom until the foundation of the United States in 1776. It was the inseparable connection between democracy, religious freedom, and the other forms of freedom which became the political and legal basis of the new nation. In particular, Baptists and Presbyterians demanded the disestablishment of state churches – Anglican and Congregationalist – and the protection of religious freedom.[62]

Reiterating Maryland’s and the other colonies’ earlier colonial legislation, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed:

[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Those sentiments also found expression in the First Amendment of the national constitution, part of the United States’ Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The United States formally considers religious freedom in its foreign relations. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which investigates the records of over 200 other nations with respect to religious freedom, and makes recommendations to submit nations with egregious records to ongoing scrutiny and possible economic sanctions. Many human rights organizations have urged the United States to be still more vigorous in imposing sanctions on countries that do not permit or tolerate religious freedom.

Canada

Freedom of religion in Canada is a constitutionally protected right, allowing believers the freedom to assemble and worship without limitation or interference. Canadian law goes further, requiring that private citizens and companies provide reasonable accommodation to those, for example, with strong religious beliefs. The Canadian Human Rights Act allows an exception to reasonable accommodation with respect to religious dress, such as a Sikh turban, when there is a bona fide occupational requirement, such as a workplace requiring a hard hat.[63] In 2017 the Santo Daime Church Céu do Montréal received religious exemption to use Ayahuasca as a sacrament in their rituals.[64]

International

On 25 November 1981, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. This declaration recognizes freedom of religion as a fundamental human right in accordance with several other instruments of international law.[65]

However, the most substantial binding legal instruments that guarantee the right to freedom of religion that was passed by the international community is the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states in its Article 14: “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. – States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child. – Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”[66]

Contemporary debates

Theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs

In 1993, the UN’s human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.”[67] The committee further stated that “the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views.” Signatories to the convention are barred from “the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers” to recant their beliefs or convert. Despite this, minority religions still are persecuted in many parts of the world.[68][69]

Secular liberalism

A man posing for a print

Adam Smith argued in favour of freedom of religion.

The French philosopher Voltaire noted in his book on English society, Letters on the English, that freedom of religion in a diverse society was deeply important to maintaining peace in that country. That it was also important in understanding why England at that time was more prosperous in comparison to the country’s less religiously tolerant European neighbours.

If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another’s throats; but as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace.[70]

Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations (using an argument first put forward by his friend and contemporary David Hume), states that in the long run it is in the best interests of society as a whole and the civil magistrate(government) in particular to allow people to freely choose their own religion, as it helps prevent civil unrest and reduces intolerance. So long as there are enough different religions and/or religious sects operating freely in a society then they are all compelled to moderate their more controversial and violent teachings, so as to be more appealing to more people and so have an easier time attracting new converts. It is this free competition amongst religious sects for converts that ensures stability and tranquillity in the long run.

Smith also points out that laws that prevent religious freedom and seek to preserve the power and belief in a particular religion will, in the long run, only serve to weaken and corrupt that religion, as its leaders and preachers become complacent, disconnected and unpractised in their ability to seek and win over new converts:[71]

The interested and active zeal of religious teachers can be dangerous and troublesome only where there is either but one sect tolerated in the society, or where the whole of a large society is divided into two or three great sects; the teachers of each acting by concert, and under a regular discipline and subordination. But that zeal must be altogether innocent, where the society is divided into two or three hundred, or, perhaps, into as many thousand small sects, of which no one could be considerable enough to disturb the public tranquillity. The teachers of each sect, seeing themselves surrounded on all sides with more adversaries than friends, would be obliged to learn that candour and moderation which are so seldom to be found among the teachers of those great sects.[72]

Hinduism

Hinduism is one of the more broad-minded religions when it comes to religious freedom.[73] It respects the right of everyone to reach God in their own way. Hindus believe in different ways to preach attainment of God and religion as a philosophy and hence respect all religions as equal. One of the famous Hindu sayings about religion is: “Truth is one; sages call it by different names.”[73]

Judaism

Women detained at Western Wall for wearing prayer shawls; photo from Women of the Wall

Judaism includes multiple streams, such as Orthodox, Reform JudaismConservative JudaismReconstructionist JudaismJewish Renewal and Humanistic Judaism. However, Judaism also exists in many forms as a civilization, possessing characteristics known as peoplehood, rather than strictly as a religion.[74] In the Torah, Jews are forbidden to practice idolatry and are commanded to root out pagan and idolatrous practices within their midst, including killing idolaters who sacrifice children to their gods, or engage in immoral activities. However, these laws are not adhered to anymore as Jews have usually lived among a multi-religious community.

After the conquest of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judea by the Roman Empire, a Jewish state did not exist until 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel. For over 1500 years Jewish people lived under pagan, Christian, Muslim, etc. rule. As such Jewish people in some of these states faced persecution. From the pogroms in Europe during the Middle Ages to the establishment of segregated Jewish ghettos during World War II. In the Middle East, Jews were categorised as dhimmi, non- Muslims permitted to live within a Muslim state. Even though given rights within a Muslim state, a dhimmi is still not equal to a Muslim within Muslim society, the same way non-Jewish Israeli citizens are not equal with Jewish citizens in modern-day Israel.

Possibly because of this history of long term persecution, Jews in modernity have been among the most active proponents of religious freedom in the US and abroad and have founded and supported anti-hate institutions, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union. Jews are very active in supporting Muslim and other religious groups in the US against discrimination and hate crimes and most Jewish congregations throughout the US and many individual Jews participate in interfaith community projects and programs.

The State of Israel was established for the Jewish diaspora after World War II. While the Israel Declaration of Independence stresses religious freedom as a fundamental principle, in practice the current[timeframe?] government, dominated by the ultra-Orthodox segment of the population has instituted legal barriers for those who do not practice Orthodox Judaism as Jews. However, as a nation state, Israel is very open towards other religions and religious practices, including public Muslim call to prayer chants and Christian prayer bells ringing in Jerusalem. Israel has been evaluated in research by the Pew organization as having “high” government restrictions on religion. The government recognizes only Orthodox Judaism in certain matters of personal status, and marriages can only be performed by religious authorities. The government provides the greatest funding to Orthodox Judaism, even though adherents represent a minority of citizens.[75] Jewish women, including Anat Hoffman, have been arrested at the Western Wall for praying and singing while wearing religious garments the Orthodox feel should be reserved for men. Women of the Wall have organized to promote religious freedom at the Wall.[76] In November 2014, a group of 60 non-Orthodox rabbinical students were told they would not be allowed to pray in the Knesset synagogue because it is reserved for Orthodox. Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, said that he had submitted the request on behalf of the students and saw their shock when the request was denied. He noted: “paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel.” MK Dov Lipman expressed the concern that many Knesset workers are unfamiliar with non-Orthodox and American practices and would view “an egalitarian service in the synagogue as an affront.”[77] The non-Orthodox forms of Jewish practice function independently in Israel, except for these issues of praying at the Western Wall.

Christianity

Part of the Oscar Straus Memorial in Washington, D.C. honoring the right to worship

According to the Catholic Church in the Vatican II document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, “the human person has a right to religious freedom”, which is described as “immunity from coercion in civil society”.[78] This principle of religious freedom “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion.”[78] In addition, this right “is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.”[78]

Prior to this, Pope Pius IX had written a document called the Syllabus of ErrorsThe Syllabus was made up of phrases and paraphrases from earlier papal documents, along with index references to them, and presented as a list of “condemned propositions”. It does not explain why each particular proposition is wrong, but it cites earlier documents to which the reader can refer for the Pope’s reasons for saying each proposition is false. Among the statements included in the Syllabus are: “[It is an error to say that] Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true” (15); “[It is an error to say that] In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship”; “[It is an error to say that] Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship”.[79]

Some Orthodox Christians, especially those living in democratic countries, support religious freedom for all, as evidenced by the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many Protestant Christian churches, including some BaptistsChurches of ChristSeventh-day Adventist Church and main line churches have a commitment to religious freedoms. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also affirms religious freedom.[80]

However others, such as African scholar Makau Mutua, have argued that Christian insistence on the propagation of their faith to native cultures as an element of religious freedom has resulted in a corresponding denial of religious freedom to native traditions and led to their destruction. As he states in the book produced by the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, “Imperial religions have necessarily violated individual conscience and the communal expressions of Africans and their communities by subverting African religions.”[81][82]

In their book Breaking IndiaRajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan discussed the “US Church” funding activities in India, such as the popularly advertised campaigns to “save” poor children by feeding, clothing, and educating them, with the book arguing that the funds collected were being used not so much for the purposes indicated to sponsors, but for indoctrination and conversion activities. They suggest that India is the prime target of a huge enterprise – a “network” of organizations, individuals, and churches – that, they argue, seem intensely devoted to the task of creating a separatist identity, history, and even religion for the vulnerable sections of India. They suggest that this nexus of players includes not only church groups, government bodies, and related organizations, but also private think tanks and academics.[83]

Joel Spring has written about the Christianization of the Roman Empire:

Christianity added new impetus to the expansion of empire. Increasing the arrogance of the imperial project, Christians insisted that the Gospels and the Church were the only valid sources of religious beliefs. Imperialists could claim that they were both civilizing the world and spreading the true religion. By the 5th century, Christianity was thought of as co-extensive with the Imperium romanum. This meant that to be human, as opposed to being a natural slave, was to be “civilized” and Christian. Historian Anthony Pagden argues, “just as the civitas; had now become coterminous with Christianity, so to be human – to be, that is, one who was ‘civil’, and who was able to interpret correctly the law of nature – one had now also to be Christian.” After the fifteenth century, most Western colonialists rationalized the spread of empire with the belief that they were saving a barbaric and pagan world by spreading Christian civilization.[84]

Islam

Conversion to Islam is simple, but Muslims are forbidden to convert from Islam to another religion. Certain Muslim-majority countries are known for their restrictions on religious freedom, highly favoring Muslim citizens over non-Muslim citizens. Other countries[who?] having the same restrictive laws tend to be more liberal when imposing them. Even other Muslim-majority countries are secular and thus do not regulate religious belief.[85][failed verification]

Islamic theologians[who?] quote the Qur’an (“There is no compulsion in religion”[2:256] and “Say: O you who reject faith, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship…To you be your religion, and to me be mine”[109:1–6], i.e., Sura Al-Kafirun) to show scriptural support for religious freedom.

Quran 2:190–194, referring to the war against Pagans during the Battle of Badr in Medina, indicates that Muslims are only allowed to fight against those who intend to harm them (right of self-defense) and that if their enemies surrender, they must also stop because God does not like those who transgress limits.

In Bukhari:V9 N316, Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin accepted Islam and then when he got a fever he demanded that Muhammad to cancel his pledge (allow him to renounce Islam). Muhammad refused to do so. The Bedouin man repeated his demand once, but Muhammad once again refused. Then, he (the Bedouin) left Medina. Muhammad said, “Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good.” In this narration, there was no evidence demonstrating that Muhammad ordered the execution of the Bedouin for wanting to renounce Islam.

In addition, Quran 5:3, which is believed to be God’s final revelation to Muhammad, states that Muslims are to fear God and not those who reject Islam, and Quran 53:38–39 states that one is accountable only for one’s own actions. Therefore, it postulates that in Islam, in the matters of practising a religion, it does not relate to a worldly punishment, but rather these actions are accountable to God in the afterlife. Thus, this supports the argument against the execution of apostates in Islam.[86]

However, on the other hand, some Muslims support the practice of executing apostates who leave Islam, as in Bukhari:V4 B52 N260; “The Prophet said, ‘If a Muslim discards his religion and separates from the main body of Muslims, kill him.”[87] However, many Muslims believe that this hadith was written in the context of war and therefore Prophet Muhammad stipulated that whichever Muslim rejects his religion, leaves from the main body of Muslims and betrays the Muslims in war should be executed as a punishment for his treachery towards the community of Muslims. So many Muslims believe that this hadith talks about the punishment of Treason.[citation needed]

In Iran, the constitution recognizes four religions whose status is formally protected: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[88] The constitution, however, also set the groundwork for the institutionalized persecution of Bahá’ís,[89] who have been subjected to arrests, beatings, executions, confiscation and destruction of property, and the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education.[88] There is no freedom of conscience in Iran, as converting from Islam to any other religion is forbidden.

In Egypt, a 16 December 2006 judgment of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt created a clear demarcation between recognized religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – and all other religious beliefs;[90][91] no other religious affiliation is officially admissible.[92]The ruling leaves members of other religious communities, including Bahá’ís, without the ability to obtain the necessary government documents to have rights in their country, essentially denying them of all rights of citizenship.[92] They cannot obtain ID cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, and passports; they also cannot be employed, educated, treated in public hospitals or vote, among other things.[92] See Egyptian identification card controversy.

Changing religion

Among the most contentious areas of religious freedom is the right of an individual to change or abandon his or her own religion (apostasy), and the right to evangelize individuals seeking to convince others to make such a change.

Other debates have centered around restricting certain kinds of missionary activity by religions. Many Islamic states, and others such as China, severely restrict missionary activities of other religions. Greece, among European countries, has generally looked unfavorably on missionary activities of denominations others than the majority church and proselytizing is constitutionally prohibited.[93]

A different kind of critique of the freedom to propagate religion has come from non-Abrahamic traditions such as the African and Indian. African scholar Makau Mutua criticizes religious evangelism on the ground of cultural annihilation by what he calls “proselytizing universalist faiths” (Chapter 28: Proselytism and Cultural Integrity, p. 652):

…the (human) rights regime incorrectly assumes a level playing field by requiring that African religions compete in the marketplace of ideas. The rights corpus not only forcibly imposes on African religions the obligation to compete – a task for which as nonproselytizing, noncompetitive creeds they are not historically fashioned – but also protects the evangelizing religions in their march towards universalization … it seems inconceivable that the human rights regime would have intended to protect the right of certain religions to destroy others.[94]

Some Indian scholars[95] have similarly argued that the right to propagate religion is not culturally or religiously neutral.

In Sri Lanka, there have been debates regarding a bill on religious freedom that seeks to protect indigenous religious traditions from certain kinds of missionary activities. Debates have also occurred in various states of India regarding similar laws, particularly those that restrict conversions using force, fraud or allurement.

In 2008, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a Christian human rights non-governmental organisation which specializes in religious freedom, launched an in-depth report on the human rights abuses faced by individuals who leave Islam for another religion. The report is the product of a year long research project in six different countries. It calls on Muslim nations, the international community, the UN and the international media to resolutely address the serious violations of human rights suffered by apostates.[96]

Apostasy in Islam

Legal opinion on apostasy by the Fatwacommittee at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the highest Islamic institution in the world, concerning the case of a man who converted to Christianity: “Since he left Islam, he will be invited to express his regret. If he does not regret, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law.”

In Islam, apostasy is called “ridda” (“turning back”) and is considered to be a profound insult to God. A person born of Muslim parents that rejects Islam is called a “murtad fitri” (natural apostate), and a person that converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a “murtad milli” (apostate from the community).[97]

In Islamic law (Sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi’iMaliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi’ascholars.[98]

Ideally, the one performing the execution of an apostate must be an imam.[98] At the same time, all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that any Muslim can kill an apostate without punishment.[99]

However, while almost all scholars agree about the punishment, many disagree on the allowable time to retract the apostasy. Many scholars push this as far as allowing the apostate until he/she dies, making the death penalty more of a theoretical statement/exercise.[citation needed] S. A. Rahman, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, argues that there is no indication of the death penalty for apostasy in the Qur’an.[100]

Secular law

Religious practice may also conflict with secular law, creating debates on religious freedom. For instance, even though polygamy is permitted in Islam, it is prohibited in secular law in many countries. This raises the question of whether prohibiting the practice infringes on the beliefs of certain Muslims. The US and India, both constitutionally secular nations, have taken two different views of this. In India, polygamy is permitted, but only for Muslims, under Muslim Personal Law. In the US, polygamy is prohibited for all. This was a major source of conflict between the early LDS Church and the United States until the Church amended its position on practicing polygamy.

Similar issues have also arisen in the context of the religious use of psychedelic substances by Native American tribes in the United States as well as other Native practices.

In 1955, Chief Justice of California Roger J. Traynor neatly summarized the American position on how freedom of religion cannot imply freedom from law: “Although freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe are absolute, the freedom to act is not.”[101] But with respect to the religious use of animals within secular law and those acts, the US Supreme Court decision in the case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah in 1993 upheld the right of Santeria adherents to practice ritual animal sacrifice, with Justice Anthony Kennedy stating in the decision: “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection” (quoted by Justice Kennedy from the opinion by Justice Burger in Thomas v. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division 450 U.S. 707 (1981)).[102]

In 2015, Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, refused to abide by the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing Same-sex marriage in the United States. When she refused to issue marriage licenses, she became embroiled in the Miller v. Davis lawsuit. Her actions caused attorney and author Roberta Kaplan to state that “Kim Davis is the clearest example of someone who wants to use a religious liberty argument to discriminate.”[103]

In 1962, the case of Engele v. Vitale went to court over the violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment resulting from a mandatory nondenominational prayer in New York public schools. The Supreme Court ruled in opposition to the state.[104]

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Abington School District v. Schempp. Edward Schempp sued the school district in Abington over the Pennsylvania law which required students to hear and sometimes read portions of the bible for their daily education. The court ruled in favor of Schempp and the Pennsylvania law was overturned.[105]

In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Epperson v. Arkansas. Susan Epperson, a high school teacher in Arkansas sued over a violation of religious freedom. The state had a law banning the teaching of evolution and the school Epperson worked for had provided curriculum which contained evolutionary theory. Epperson had to choose between violating the law or losing her job. The Supreme Court ruled to overturn the Arkansas law because it was unconstitutional.[106]

Children’s rights

The law in Germany provides the term of “religious majority” (Religiöse Mündigkeit) with a minimum age for minors to follow their own religious beliefs even if their parents don’t share those or don’t approve. Children 14 and older have the unrestricted right to enter or exit any religious community. Children 12 and older cannot be compelled to change to a different belief. Children 10 and older have to be heard before their parents change their religious upbringing to a different belief.[107] There are similar laws in Austria[108] and in Switzerland.[109]

International Religious Freedom Day

27 October is International Religious Freedom Day, in commemoration of the execution of the Boston martyrs, a group of Quakers executed by the Puritans on Boston Common for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1659–1661.[110] The US proclaimed 16 January Religious Freedom Day.[111]

Modern concerns

In its 2011 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom designated fourteen nations as “countries of particular concern”. The commission chairman commented that these are nations whose conduct marks them as the world’s worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers. The fourteen nations designated were Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Other nations on the commission’s watchlist include Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.[112]

There are concerns about the restrictions on public religious dress in some European countries (including the HijabKippah, and Christian cross).[113][114] Article 18 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights limits restrictions on freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs to those necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.[115] Freedom of religion as a legal concept is related to, but not identical with, religious toleration, separation of church and state, or secular state (laïcité).

Social hostilities and government restrictions

Freedom of religion by country (Pew Research Center study, 2009). Light yellow: low restriction; red: very high restriction on freedom of religion.

The Pew Research Center has performed studies on international religious freedom between 2009 and 2015, compiling global data from 16 governmental and non-governmental organizations–including the United Nations, the United States State Department, and Human Rights Watch–and representing over 99.5 percent of the world’s population.[116][117] In 2009, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population lived in countries classified as having heavy restrictions on freedom of religion.[116][117] This concerns restrictions on religion originating from government prohibitions on free speech and religious expression as well as social hostilities undertaken by private individuals, organisations and social groups. Social hostilities were classified by the level of communal violence and religion-related terrorism.

While most countries provided for the protection of religious freedom in their constitutions or laws, only a quarter of those countries were found to fully respect these legal rights in practice. In 75 countries governments limit the efforts of religious groups to proselytise and in 178 countries religious groups must register with the government. In 2013, Pew classified 30% of countries as having restrictions that tend to target religious minorities, and 61% of countries have social hostilities that tend to target religious minorities.[118]

The countries in North and South America reportedly had some of the lowest levels of government and social restrictions on religion, while The Middle East and North Africa were the regions with the highest. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran were the countries that top the list of countries with the overall highest levels of restriction on religion. Topping the Pew government restrictions index were Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Egypt, Burma, Maldives, Eritrea, Malaysia and Brunei.

Of the world’s 25 most populous countries, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan had the most restrictions, while Brazil, Japan, Italy, South Africa, the UK, and the US had some of the lowest levels, as measured by Pew.

Vietnam and China were classified as having high government restrictions on religion but were in the moderate or low range when it came to social hostilities. Nigeria, Bangladesh and India were high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions.

Restrictions on religion across the world increased between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center. Restrictions in each of the five major regions of the world increased—including in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions where overall restrictions previously had been declining. In 2010, Egypt, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Russia, and Yemen were added to the “very high” category of social hostilities.[119] The five highest social hostility scores were for Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Bangladesh.[120] In 2015, Pew published that social hostilities declined in 2013, but the harassment of Jews increased.[118]

In the Palestinian territories, Palestinians face tight restrictions on practicing the freedom of religion due to the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In a report published by the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, eyewitnesses reported systematic practices aiming at preventing young men and women from performing their prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. These practices include military orders issued by the Israeli Defense Army commander against specific Palestinians who have an effective role in Jerusalem, interrogating young men, and creating a secret blacklist of people who are prevented from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque.[121]

See also

References…

Further reading

External links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion

Blaine Amendment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Blaine Amendment was first a failed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-eight of the fifty states adopted provisions of Blaine in their state constitutions. These provisions forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation. They were designed to prohibit aid to parochial schools, especially those operated by the Catholic Church in locations with large immigrant populations.[1] The Blaine Amendment emerged from a growing consensus among 19th-century American Protestants that public education must be free from sectarian or denominational control, while it also reflected nativist tendencies hostile to immigrants.[2]

Contents

Proposed federal amendment

President Ulysses S. Grant (1869–77) in a speech in 1875 to a veteran’s meeting, called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public money for sectarian schools. He was echoing nativist sentiments that were strong in his Republican Party.[3][4]

Grant laid out his agenda for “good common school education.” He attacked government support for “sectarian schools” run by religious organizations, and called for the defense of public education “unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas.” Grant declared that “Church and State” should be “forever separate.” Religion, he said, should be left to families, churches, and private schools devoid of public funds.[5]

After Grant’s speech Republican Congressman James G. Blaine (1830–1893) proposed the amendment to the federal Constitution. Blaine, who actively sought Catholic votes when he ran for president in 1884, believed that possibility of hurtful agitation on the school question should be ended.[6] In 1875, the proposed amendment passed by a vote of 180 to 7 in the House of Representatives, but failed by four votes to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote in the United States Senate. It never became federal law.

The proposed text was:

No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.

Amendments to state constitutions

Supporters of the proposal then turned their attention to state legislatures, where their efforts met with far greater success. Eventually, all but 10 states (ArkansasConnecticutMaineMarylandNew JerseyNorth CarolinaRhode IslandTennesseeVermont, and West Virginia) passed laws that meet the general criteria for designation as “Blaine amendments,” in that they ban the use of public funds to support sectarian private schools.[7] In some states the provisions in question were included in newly drafted constitutions, rather than adopted as amendments to an existing constitution.

The state Blaine amendments remain in effect in many states.[8][9] In 2012, 46% of voters endorsed a measure repealing Florida’s Blaine amendment. A 60% margin was required for adoption.[10] Voters have also rejected proposals to repeal their state-level Blaine amendments in New York (1967), Michigan (1970), Oregon (1972), Washington state (1975), Alaska (1976), Massachusetts (1986), and Oklahoma (2016).[11][12]

On April 1, 1974, voters in Louisiana approved a new constitution by a margin of 58 to 42 percent,[13] which repealed the Blaine amendment that was part of that state’s 1921 constitution.[14] Louisiana’s current 1974 constitution replaced it with a copy of the federal First Amendment’s no-establishment and free exercise clauses, in Article 1, Sec. 8 of its Declaration of Rights; in Article 8, Sec. 13(a), it also guarantees the provision of free textbooks and “materials of instruction” to all children attending elementary and secondary schools in Louisiana.[15]

Two other states, South Carolina and Utah, have also watered down their “no-aid to religion” constitutional clauses by removing from them the word “indirect,” leaving only a prohibition of direct aid or assistance to religious schools in these states.[16]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Jeffrey D. Schultz et al eds. (1999). Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics. Greenwood. p. 29.
  3. ^ Jeffrey D. Schultz et al eds. (1999). Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics. Greenwood. p. 29.
  4. ^ Tyler Anbinder says, “Grant was not an obsessive nativist. He expressed his resentment of immigrants and animus toward Catholicism only rarely. But these sentiments reveal themselves frequently enough in his writings and major actions as general….In the 1850s he joined a Know Nothing lodge and irrationally blamed immigrants for setbacks in his career.” Anbinder, “Ulysses S. Grant, Nativist,” Civil War History 43 (June 1997): 119–41. online
  5. ^ Deforrest (2003)
  6. ^ Steven Green (2010). The Second Disestablishment : Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford University Press. p. 296.
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ [4]
  10. ^ Olorunnipa, Toluse (November 6, 2012). “Florida voters reject most constitutional amendments, including ‘religious freedom’ proposal”Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  11. ^ “The 27 Statewide Referenda on School Vouchers or Their Variants, 1966-2007”. Americans for Religious Liberty. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  12. ^ “Oklahoma Public Money for Religious Purposes, State Question 790 (2016)”. Ballotpedia.
  13. ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2017-05-28. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. ^ Art.4, Sec. 8, Constitution of Louisiana, 1921: “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such, and no preference shall ever be given, nor any discrimination made against, any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.”
  15. ^ https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Louisiana_State__Constitution_(1974).
  16. ^ Article 11, Sec. 4 of the South Carolina Constitution states, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” And Utah’s constitution says, according to Article 10, Sec. 8, “Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization.” Regina Reaves Hayden, annotated by Steven K. Green, Esq. Stars in the Constitutional Constellation: Federal and State Constitutional Provisions on Church and State. Silver Spring, MD: Americans United Research Foundation, 1993, p. 109, 122.

Further reading

  • Deforrest, Mark Edward. “An Overview and Evaluation of State Blaine Amendments: Origins, Scope, and First Amendment Concerns,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 26, 2003 in Questia
  • Green, Steven K. “The Blaine Amendment Reconsidered,” 36 Am. J. Legal Hist. 38 (1992)

External links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaine_Amendment

Mr. Barr’s argument has been echoed throughout American history: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people” (John Adams). “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith” (Tocqueville). “In teaching this democratic faith to American children, we need the sustaining, buttressing aid of those great ethical religious teachings which are the heritage of our modern civilization. For ‘not upon strength nor upon power, but upon the spirit of God’ shall our democracy be founded” (FDR). And so on.

That so many would become unhinged by Mr. Barr’s relatively modest contribution to the genre is highly revealing of the absolutism of secularist opponents determined to marginalize and destroy anyone who dares dissent from their own uncompromising orthodoxy.

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 1335, October 7, 2019, Story 1: United States and North Korea Talks Broken Down For Now — Videos — Story 2: President Trump Will Bring The Troops Home from Syria — Warmongering Interventionists Oppose Trump — Videos

Posted on October 13, 2019. Filed under: 2020 Democrat Candidates, 2020 President Candidates, 2020 Republican Candidates, Addiction, American History, Banking System, Barack H. Obama, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Blogroll, Breaking News, Bribery, Budgetary Policy, Cartoons, Clinton Obama Democrat Criminal Conspiracy, Communications, Congress, Constitutional Law, Corruption, Countries, Crime, Culture, Currencies, Defense Spending, Diet, Disasters, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Eating, Education, Empires, Employment, European History, Exercise, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, Former President Barack Obama, Fourth Amendment, Free Trade, Freedom of Speech, Government, Government Dependency, Government Spending, Health, Health Care Insurance, High Crimes, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, History, House of Representatives, Housing, Human, Human Behavior, Illegal Immigration, Immigration, Impeachment, Independence, Labor Economics, Language, Law, Legal Immigration, Life, Lying, Media, Monetary Policy, National Interest, News, Obesity, People, Philosophy, Photos, Politics, Polls, Progressives, Public Corruption, Public Relations, Rand Paul, Raymond Thomas Pronk, Regulation, Resources, Robert S. Mueller III, Rule of Law, Scandals, Second Amendment, Senate, Spying, Spying on American People, Subornation of perjury, Subversion, Success, Surveillance and Spying On American People, Surveillance/Spying, Tax Policy, Taxation, Taxes, Terror, Terrorism, Treason, Trump Surveillance/Spying, Ukraine, Unemployment, United States Constitution, United States of America, Videos, Violence, War, Wealth, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Story 1: President Trump Will Bring The U.S. Troops Home from Northeastern Syria — Neocon Warmongering Interventionists Oppose Trump — Trump Ending the Endless Intervention in The Middle East — Long Overdue — Videos

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Top two lawmakers blast Trump’s move to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria

by Reuters
Monday, 7 October 2019 18:06 GMT

The top lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on Monday condemned the decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, which critics fear could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area.

“This decision poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement calling on Trump to “reverse this dangerous decision.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement: “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.” (Reporting by Makini Brice, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

Trump sends strong, conflicting signals on Syria, Turkey

By LITA C. BALDOR, MATTHEW LEE and ROBERT BURNS28 minutes ago

FILE – In this Wednesday, July 11, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The White House says Turkey will soon invade Northern Syria, casting uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against in a campaign against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing unusually wide criticism, President Donald Trump sent out strong but conflicting signals on the “endless war” in Syria and Middle East on Monday. He declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Kurds who have fought alongside Americans for years but then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with U.S. troops. Trump’s decision appeared to be the latest example of an approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that is sometimes reversed and frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to defend the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

 

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Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion.

“It’s going to lead to ISIS reemergence,” he told Fox News.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill to the late Sunday night announcement prompted Trump to recast his decision but with renewed bombast, portraying it as a threat to strangle Turkey if it carries out its announced intent to invade.

Officials suggested that Trump’s threats against Turkey on Monday morning were reactions to the overwhelming criticism of his earlier announcement that the U.S. would withdraw troops and get them out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described a botched effort by the White House on Sunday night, putting out a statement that appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful. But in what the official described as a “exercise in damage control” Monday morning, the Pentagon made it clear to the Turkish military that “there will be a major break in relations if you do this.”

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But the official cautioned that even if pressure from the U.S. and Europe succeeds in getting Erdogan to back down, the damage done to relations with the Kurds may be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies, but entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

Trump defended his decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

Hours after the White House announcement, two senior State Department officials minimized the effects of the U.S. action, telling reporters that Turkey may not go through with a large-scale invasion and the U.S. was still trying to discourage it. Both officials spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss what led to the internal White House decision.

Among the first to leave were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there is no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

Trump’s move came at a pivotal moment of his presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said early Monday on “Fox & Friends” that he had not been briefed by the president about the decision and he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed alarm.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

___

With contributions from Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul; Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Lori Hinnant in Paris.

https://apnews.com/ac3115b4eb564288a03a5b8be868d2e5

American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War

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American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War
Part of the military intervention against ISIL (Operation Inherent Resolve),
Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War
Secretary Kerry Shakes Hands With Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Before Bilateral Meeting in Austria Focused on Syria (21785218013).jpgKurdish YPG Fighter (22806739779).jpg
Top: Bilateral Meeting in Austria Focused on SyriaBottom: Kurdish YPJ soldier
Date 22 September 2014 – present
(5 years, 2 weeks and 4 days)
Location
Result Ongoing operations

Belligerents
Coalition of foreign countries
Seal of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.svg CJTF–OIR
Air war and ground forces

Airstrikes only

Local ground forces
Flag of Syrian Democratic Forces.svg Syrian Democratic Forces

Limited involvement’
Iraqi Kurdistan

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[15]
[16][17][18]


 al-Qaeda

 Turkistan Islamic Party[29]


 Ahrar al-Sham (Nov. 2014 airstrikes, intentionality disputed)[30][31]

 Syrian Arab Republic (limited 2017–2018 strikes)[32]
Iran (limited aircraft shoot downs)[33][34]
Supported by:
Russia
Commanders and leaders
United States Donald Trump(since 20 January 2017)
United States Barack Obama(until 20 January 2017)
United States Chuck Hagel (until 2015)
United States Ashton Carter (until 2017)
United States James Mattis (until 2019)
United States Patrick M. Shanahan (since 2019)
United States Gen. Lloyd Austin
United States Gen. James L. Terry
United States Gen. Joseph Votel
United States Gen.Stephen J. Townsend
United States Gen. Paul E. Funk II
DenmarkLars Løkke Rasmussen
Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Netherlands Mark Rutte
United KingdomBoris Johnson(since 24 July 2019)
United KingdomTheresa May(13 July 2016 – 24 July 2019)
United KingdomDavid Cameron(until 13 July 2016)
United Kingdom Stephen Hillier
Australia Tony Abbott
Australia Malcolm Turnbull
Australia Trevor Jones
Australia David Johnston
France Emmanuel Macron (since 14 May 2017)
France François Hollande (until 14 May 2017)
France Jean-Yves Le Drian
France Pierre de Villiers
Germany Angela Merkel
Germany Ursula von der Leyen
Germany Volker Wieker
Jordan King Abdullah II
Jordan Abdullah Ensour
Saudi Arabia King Salman
Saudi Arabia King Abdullah Al Saud (Died 2015)
Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud
Morocco King Mohammed VI
Morocco Abdelilah Benkirane
Morocco Bouchaib Arroub
United Arab Emirates Khalifa Al Nahyan
Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Qatar Tamim Al Thani
Qatar Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah
Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria Salih Muslim Muhammad
Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani
Canada Stephen Harper (until November 2015)
Canada Justin Trudeau (until February 2016)
Canada Thomas J. Lawson (until February 2016)Canada Yvan Blondin (until February 2016)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Leader)[41]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Alaa Afri 
(Deputy Leader of ISIL)[42][43]
 Abu Mohammad al-Adnani  (Spokesperson)
 Abu Ayman al-Iraqi  (Head of Military Shura)[44][45]
 Abu Suleiman  (Replacement Military Chief)[45]
 Abu Ali al-Anbari  (Deputy, Syria)
 Akram Qirbash 
(Top ISIL judge)[43]
 Abu Omar al-Shishani  (Chief commander in Syria) [46][47][48][49]
 Abu Sayyaf  (Senior ISIL economic manager)[50]
 Abu Khattab al-Kurdi  (Commander of the assault on Kobanî)[51][52]


 Abu Khayr al-Masri  (al-Qaeda deputy leader)[53][54]
 Abu Jaber Shaykh (Emir of Tahrir al-Sham, 2017–present)
 Abu Mohammad al-Julani (Leader of the al-Nusra Front)
 Abu Humam al-Shami (al-Nusra Military Chief)[55]
 Abu Hajer al-Homsi  (top al-Nusra military commander)[56]
 Abu Firas al-Suri  (al-Nusra Spokesman)[57][58]
 Abu Muhammed al Ansari 
(al-Nusra Emir of the Idlib Province)
 Ahmad Salama Mabruk  (al-Nusra senior commander)[59]
 Muhsin al-Fadhli  (Leader of Khorasan)[60][61][62]
 Sanafi al-Nasr [63]
 David Drugeon [61][64]
Flag of Jund al-Aqsa.svg Said Arif  (Jund al-Aqsa Military Chief)[26]
 Abu Omar al-Turkistani  (TIP and al-Nusra military commander)[29]


 Abu Jaber Shaykh (2014–2015)[65][66]

 Abu Yahia al-Hamawi (2015–2017)[67]

Syria Bashar al-Assad (President of Syria)
Strength
Coalition forces: Coalition forces-air

Coalition forces-ground


Local forces

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:


al-Qaeda:


Ahrar al-Sham:

Syrian Arab Republic:

Casualties and losses
United States United States:
8 servicemen killed (5 non-hostile)[108][109][110]
2 government contractors killed
F-16 crashed[111]
V-22 Osprey crashed[112]
drones lost[113][114]
Jordan Jordan:
serviceman executed[115]
1 F-16 crashed[116]
United Kingdom United Kingdom:
1 serviceman killed (non hostile)[117]
SAS operators wounded[118]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:
At least 9,145 killed [119]
(per SOHR)


 al-Qaeda:

 Jaysh al-Sunna:
10 killed (per SOHR)[119]


 Ahrar al-Sham:

3 killed (per SOHR)[119][121][122]

 Syrian Arab Republic:
169 soldiers and militiamen killed (per SOHR)[119]
15-100+ Russian mercenaries killed[123][124][125]
4 tanks destroyed[126]
11+ aircraft destroyed[127][128]
SAM batteries destroyed[129]Iran 2 armed drones shot down
4,036 civilians killed by Coalition airstrikes in Syria (Per Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)[119]
[130] 5,900+ civilians killed by ISIL in Syria [131]
Over 420,000 civilians displaced or fled to other countries[132][133]
Number of militants killed possibly higher, due to them covering up their losses.[134]

The American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War refers to the United States-led support of Syrian opposition and the Federation of Northern Syria during the course of the Syrian Civil War and active military involvement led by the United States and its allies — the militaries of the United KingdomFranceJordanTurkeyCanadaAustralia and more — against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front since 2014. Since early 2017, the U.S. and other Coalition partners have also targeted the Syrian government and its allies via airstrikes and aircraft shoot-downs.

During the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, the U.S. initially supplied the rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid—including food rations and pickup trucks—but quickly began providing training, money, and intelligence to selected Syrian rebel commanders. At least two U.S. programs attempted to assist the Syrian rebels. One was a 2014 Pentagon program that planned to train and equip 15,000 rebels to fight ISIL, which was canceled in 2015 after spending $500 million and producing only a few dozen fighters.[135] A simultaneous $1 billion covert program called Timber Sycamore ran by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was more successful, but was decimated by Russian bombing and canceled in mid-2017 by the Trump administration.[135]

The Obama administration began surveillance missions on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant‘s positions in Syria in September 2014.[136] On 22 September 2014, the U.S., BahrainJordanQatarSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began to attack ISIL forces inside Syria,[15][137] as well as the Khorasan group in the Idlib Governorate west of Aleppo and the al-Nusra Front around Raqqa,[21][138] as part of the multinational military intervention against ISIL. As of August 2017, the coalition had flown 168,000 sorties in both Syria and Iraq (mostly against ISIL), with a roughly 45/55 split between the two, respectively.[35] As of late 2015, coalition planes were dropping or launching an average of 67 bombs or missiles a day.[139] The American-led air campaign inflicted heavy losses on ISIL and, alongside special forces operations, artillery strikes, and material and intelligence support to the SDF, catalyzed the loss of the bulk of ISIL’s Syrian territory by March 2019.

The U.S. missile strike on Shayrat Airbase on 7 April 2017 was the first time the U.S. became a deliberate, direct combatant against the Syrian government[140] and marked the start of a series of deliberate direct military actions by U.S. forces against the Syrian government and its allies in May–June 2017 and February 2018.

In mid-January 2018, the Trump administration indicated its intention to maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria to counter Iran’s influence and oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.[141] In early September 2018, the U.S. began implementing a new strategy that sought to indefinitely extend the military effort, launching a major diplomatic push to achieve American objectives in Syria.[142] However, on 19 December, President Trump unilaterally ordered the withdrawal of the 2,000–2,500 American ground troops in Syria, which was initially set to take place in a 90-day period and to be completed in 2019. The announcement shifted the scope of American interests in the conflict from what was an increasingly open-ended presence to a sudden draw-down. The fear of a power vacuum from a premature U.S. pullout from Syria drew consternation from both American officials and allies, particularly in regards to the potential of imperiling the Kurds in the face of Turkish opportunism, potentially giving Russia and Iran geopolitical wins, and the unintended consequence of allowing breathing room for extremist and terrorist groups operating in Syria to regroup and reorganize.[143][144][145]

After European allies initially refused to commit additional personnel to replace U.S. troops in Syria,[146] and with proliferating concerns over a potential power vacuum, the U.S. announced on 22 February 2019 that instead of a total withdrawal, a contingency force of around 400 American troops would remain garrisoned in Syria indefinitely post-withdrawal, marking a return to a policy of open-ended American military presence in the country.[147] By June 2019, the U.S., led by special anti-ISIL envoy James Jeffrey, had renewed its demands for European allies to compensate for the reduced American ground presence in a joint manner.[148]

The intervention was conducted with strong domestic support; according to Gallup polling in 2014, 61% of Americans supported intervention against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, while 30% were opposed, and 9% undecided.[149] A larger CCGA poll taken in 2016 showed that 72% of Americans supported “conducting airstrikes against violent Islamic extremist groups in Syria”, while 58% also supported “sending special operations forces into Syria to fight violent Islamic extremist groups.” Additionally, a slim majority (52%) supported “enforcing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, including bombing Syrian air defenses.” However, only 26% supported “sending arms and other supplies to anti-government rebel groups in Syria.”[150]

Background

United States diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks have been seen as showing that regime change in Syria may have been a covert foreign policy goal of the U.S. government in the years leading up to the civil war, even during the period when President Barack Obama was publicly engaging with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. A 2006 memorandum by U.S. diplomat William Roebuck of the embassy in Damascus stated:

We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as…the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising. These proposals will need to be fleshed out and converted into real actions and we need to be ready to move quickly to take advantage of such opportunities. Many of our suggestions underline using Public Diplomacy and more indirect means to send messages that influence the inner circle.

According to Seymour Hersh and activist Robert Naiman, Roebuck, who went on to be charge d’affairs of the Libyan embassy under Obama, also considered the advantages of promoting religious sectarianism in Syria.[151][152]

Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, protests in Syria against the Assad administration were violently suppressed and a civil war began.[153] By 2012 there were several armed opposition groups operating in the country, including the Free Syrian Army, formed in July 2011 by officers who defected from the Syrian Armed Forces. In 2012, the al-Nusra Front was established by the Islamic State of Iraq as the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria. The al-Nusra Front was eclipsed by its own creator, and al-Qaeda severed its ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle.[154]

Military situation in the Syrian Civil War as of April 9, 2019.

 Controlled by Syrian Arab Republic
 Controlled by North Syria Federation (SDF)
 Controlled by the Syrian opposition and Ahrar al-Sham
 Controlled by Turkey and TFSA
 Controlled by the Islamic State (ISIL)
 Controlled by Tahrir al-Sham (al-Nusra)

(For a more detailed, up-to-date, interactive map, see Template:Syrian Civil War detailed map.)

Pre-coalition arming and training of the Syrian opposition

At the direction of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was put in charge the operations worth about $1 billion annually to arm anti-government forces in Syria,[155][156][157][158] an operation which formally began in 2013, more than two years after the start of the civil war in 2011. Prior to 2013, the CIA only supplied certain rebel groups of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid, but later began providing training, funding, and intelligence to selected rebel commanders.[159][160][161] Although a former intelligence adviser who spoke to journalist Seymour Hersh claimed the CIA had been facilitating the flow of arms from Libya to Syria in collaboration with “the UK [United Kingdom], Saudi Arabia and Qatar” since 2012 or 2011,[162] the first confirmed CIA weapons arrived in Spring 2014: “There were just a handful, delivered to only one rebel group carefully vetted by the CIA”. The group, Harakat Hazm, or the Steadfast Movement, showed off the new weapons system by posting the first successful strike on YouTube in April.[163] Another of the groups being vetted was the Islamist Army of Mujahedeen, formed in January 2014 specifically to combat ISIL.[163][164] However, there were indications that the Army of Mujahedeen was still being vetted in September 2014.[165]

In addition to the covert CIA program,[166] on 17 September 2014 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to authorize the executive branch to overtly train and equip Syrian rebels against ISIL forces, at a cost of $500 million.[167][168][169]

July 2014 rescue mission

Following the abduction of a number of foreigners in Syria, on 4 July 2014, the U.S. carried out an operation to rescue foreign hostages being held by ISIL. U.S. airstrikes were conducted against an ISIL military base known as the “Osama bin Laden Camp” while at the same time, two dozen US special forces soldiers parachuted from helicopters near an ISIL-held building, thought to be for high-value prisoners. No prisoners were found in the building and the soldiers were quickly engaged by ISIL forces dispatched from Raqqa, which started a three-hour firefight.[170] U.S. forces concluded that the hostages were no longer at the site and abandoned the rescue attempt. At least five ISIL fighters were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded. Jordanian forces were also reportedly involved in the operation, with one Jordanian soldier reportedly wounded, but Jordanian involvement was not confirmed. Later on, it was reported that the hostages had been moved 24 hours before the attempted rescue.[170] Following the mission, it was still unclear whether the operation failed due to bad intelligence or whether ISIL forces were alerted in advance of the mission.[171]

In the aftermath of the rescue mission, and purportedly as a response to airstrikes in Iraq, ISIL beheaded three hostages over a one-month period: Americans James Foley[170] and Steven Sotloff on 19 August and 2 September respectively,[172] and Briton David Haines on 13 September.[173]

Surveillance flights over Syria

On 26 August 2014, the U.S. began sending surveillance flights, including drones, over Syria to gather intelligence on ISIL targets. The flights began gathering intelligence that would aid future airstrikes even though airstrikes were not yet authorized at that point.[174] No approval was sought from the Assad government for flights entering Syrian airspace.[175]

U.S.-led coalition against ISIL

The United States had since 2014 led efforts to establish a global coalition to counter ISIL.[176]

On 5 September, 15 September,[177] and 3 December 2014, various sets of countries came together to discuss concerted action against ISIL. Present at all three meetings were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey and Denmark.

The coalition of 5 September (10 countries) decided to support anti-ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria.[178] On 10 September 2014, U.S. president Barack Obama announced a ″comprehensive″ strategy to counter ISIL that ″in concert with coalition partners <…> will defeat ISIL and deny them safe haven″.[179]

The coalition of 3 December 2014 (sixty countries) that styled itself as the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)[180] agreed on a many-sided strategy against ISIL, including cutting off ISIL’s financing and funding and exposing ISIL’s true nature.[180] As of March 2015, the U.S.-led coalition comprised over sixty countries, that contributed in various ways to the effort.[176]

Support for Kurdish-led ground forces

As the Siege of Kobanî continued there were growing calls to also arm the YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish fighting force in Syria heavily involved in the defense of Kobanî.[181] On 20 October 2014, the Turkish foreign ministerMevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that the Turkish government would be allowing Peshmerga from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to cross their border into Kobanî to support Kurdish fighters.[182] The change in policy came after the Turkish government had refused to allow Kurdish fighters and supplies to pass through the border to YPG units in Kobanî, as it viewed the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK.[183] On 28 October, Peshmerga from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government departed Erbil to travel to Turkey and eventually to Kobanî.[184] A total of 152 soldiers were deployed starting with forty vehicles carrying weapons, artillery, and machine guns, along with 80 Peshmerga forces, who crossed the border into Turkey by land with the heavy weapons and then drove to the border near Kobanî.[184] The other 72 soldiers in the contingent flew to Turkey and rejoined the rest of the contingent on 29 October.[184] By the start of November, 152 Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq and 50 Free Syrian Army fighters had crossed the border into Kobanî with heavy weapons, small arms, and ammunition.[13][84]

On 20 October 2014, the United States began airdropping supplies to Syrian Kurdish forces, including the YPG, that were besieging ISIL-controlled Kobanî.[185] Prior to 20 October, the United States and its anti-ISIL coalition partners in Syria had not provided any supplies to Kurdish forces in their fight against the jihadist group.[185] Much of the reason for the U.S. airdropping supplies was due to the Turkish government’s refusal to allow supplies to pass through their border into Kobanî. The U.S. specifically airdropped weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies supplied by Iraqi Kurdistan intended to supply the Kurdish forces in Syria.[185] On 21 October, a video was released by ISIL showing what it claimed was a bundle of airdropped small arms, ammunition, and other supplies from the United States. The Pentagon said it was analyzing the video and could not at the time confirm whether the video was authentic but that the materials were similar; the video would subsequently be analyzed by the Department of Defense to verify its authenticity.[186] On 22 October, the Pentagon confirmed that one of its airdrops had been intercepted by ISIL elements but downplayed the incident, saying that it most likely would not give ISIL any real advantage in their overall operations.[187]

Coalition arming and training of the Syrian opposition

By January 2015, the United States was set to send 400 troops and hundreds of support staff to countries neighboring Syria in order to train 5,000 opposition soldiers a year for the next three years.[188] The countries taking part in the train-and-equip program were to include Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.[189] The groups that were expected to be armed and trained by the U.S. government included fighters from the Free Syrian Army.[190] In October 2014, the Turkish government agreed to help train and equip some moderate Syrian rebels in Turkey.[191] The Pentagon confirmed that it had selected 1,200 Syrian opposition members to begin training in March 2015, with 3,000 to complete training by the end of 2015.[189]

The successful experience in Kobanî had informed U.S. policy in regard to arming Syrian opposition groups other than the Kurdish YPG, with plans to give other groups technicals equipped with radio and GPS equipment to call in airstrikes.[166] John R. Allen, President Obama’s envoy to the international coalition against ISIL, stated “It is clearly part of our plan, that not only we will train them, and we will equip them with the latest weapons systems, but we will also protect them when the time comes”.[192] In March 2015, the United Kingdom announced that it was sending around 75 military instructors to train Syrian opposition forces.[193][194] The train-and-equip program started on 9 May 2015.[195] On 25 May, Turkey and the U.S. agreed “in principle” on the necessity to support these forces with air support.[196]

However, only about 200 rebel fighters actually began training, the majority of whom left after being required to agree to fight only against ISIL and not the Assad government.[197] By mid-2015, only a group of 54 such fighters (Division 30) had been deployed – which was quickly routed in an ambush by al-Nusra[198] – and a further 100 had been thus far finished training in Jordan.[199] In September 2015, it was reported that a further 100-120 were being trained in a second wave,[200] with 75 more Division 30 fighters reported to have re-entered Syria at the end of the month; they were immediately attacked by al-Nusra.[201]

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that in December 2015 the U.S. shipped 994 tonnes of weapons and ammunition (including packaging and container weight), generally of Soviet-type equipment from Eastern Europe, to Syrian rebel groups under the ongoing CIA Timber Sycamore operation. A detailed list of weapon types and shipment weights had been obtained from the U.S. government’s Federal Business Opportunities website.[202][203] As of July 2016, extensive arms shipments were continuing.[204][205][206]

It was reported in July 2017 that the Donald Trump administration decided to “phase-out” the CIA program to equip and train anti-government rebel groups.[207][208][209]

Multinational air war

Preparations for American airstrikes

In his address to the nation on 10 September 2014, U.S. President Obama announced his intention to bomb ISIL targets in Syria and called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels who were fighting ISIL and the Syrian forces of Bashar al-Assad.[210] For the first time, he authorized direct attacks against the militant group in Syria. In his address, he said the United States were going on offensive, launching “a steady, relentless effort to take out” the group “wherever they exist.” Obama also announced creating of a broader coalition against ISIL.[211]

Commenting on Obama’s address, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich [ru] opposed the U.S. intervention against ISIL in Syria “without the consent of the legitimate government” and said that “this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law”. Ali Haidar, Syrian minister of national reconciliation, said that “any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria”.[212]

On 17 September, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Obama’s plan to train and arm the Syrian rebels in their fight against ISIL. In a statement following the House vote, Obama said that the United States would not send military troops to Syria.[213] The Senate gave final congressional approval to Obama’s proposal the next day.[214]

The U.S. did not request permission from the Syrian government, nor did it coordinate its actions with the Syrian government, provide direct notification to the Syrian military or give indication of timing on specific targets, but it did notify the Syrian U.N. representative, which the Syrian government confirmed.[215]

Before the airstrikes began, the United States also informed Iran, the Assad government’s largest regional ally, of their intention to launch airstrikes. It did not share specific timing or targets of strikes with the Iranian government but reportedly assured it that the US would not strike any Syrian government targets.[216]

Contributing countries

Timeline

Map of the first round of U.S. and coalition strikes in Syria

2014

September 2014 — Airstrikes begin

Tomahawk cruise missile launching from USS Arleigh Burke to strike ISIL targets in Syria on 23 September

On 22 September, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed that the United States and other partner nations had undertaken strikes in Syria using fighters, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles in strikes authorized by President Barack Obama.[219] BahrainJordanQatarSaudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were identified as countries conducting or supporting airstrikes the first night.[10] The initial strikes were coordinated by United States Central Command[12] and targeted about 20 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets, including headquarters buildings.[220] Sources in Syria claimed that among the targets was also Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants had recently captured and targets in the towns of Tabqa and Tel Abyad in Raqqa Province.[221]

The U.S. also targeted the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and the Khorasan Group[222] in the Aleppo and Idlib Governorates of Syria.[223]

F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were reported to be among the U.S. aircraft striking targets in Syria on the first night of the campaign, carrying out their first combat missions ever since entering service in 2005.[70]

At least 70 ISIL fighters, 50 fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, and eight civilians were killed overnight by the airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights while eight strikes were launched against the Khorasan group.[224]

Syrian military radar was “passive” during the first air strikes, with no attempt to counter US aircraft.[225] During the first night of airstrikes, the United States’ force deployed with HARM missiles as a precaution, as it was uncertain how Syria’s air-defense network would react.[226]

File:Sept 23 ISIL compound strike.WebM

A U.S. Air Force fighter jet drops ordnance on an ISIL compound in Raqqa, Syria on 23 September 2014.

On 24 September, the United States and coalition partners conducted a second round of airstrikes on ISIL facilities in Syria. The airstrikes were targeting oil production facilities controlled by ISIL who had been using the oil in order to fund their activities. Some targets were apparently also mobile production facilities which were most likely not refineries.[227]

In a third round of airstrikes on ISIL targets on 25 September, Arab partners led the U.S. in strikes against militant-held oil facilities in northeastern Syria. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dropped 80 percent of the bomb tonnage in the third round of strikes, compared to other strikes in which the United States lead Arab partners.[228]

On 26 September, the U.S. carried out a fourth round of airstrikes on ISIL targets in Eastern Syria. The strikes were targeting ISIL heavy equipment and destroyed four of their tanks in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[229]

In a fifth round of airstrikes in Syria on 27 September, the U.S. led strikes along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE against ISIL forces in the Kobanî Canton of Syrian Kurdistan. The strikes destroyed two armored vehicles and an unknown number of fighters in an area that had been under siege by ISIL militants. The siege by Islamic State fighters had recently forced over 100,000 Syrian Kurds to flee across the border to Turkey.[230]

On 28 and 29 September, the U.S. carried out two rounds of strikes against ISIL positions across Syria in 4 provinces. Among the facilities targeted was the entrance to the largest gas plant in Syria, in Deir ez-Zor Governorate, and ISIL training camps and vehicles near an ISIL-controlled grain silo in Manbij.[231]

October 2014

F/A-18 Hornets takes off from USS George H.W. Bush to strike ISIL targets in Syria

In an eighth round of airstrikes in Syria on 1 October, the U.S. and coalition partners struck ISIL targets in Northern Syria. The daytime strikes targeted ISIL forces laying siege to Kobanî, a primarily Kurdish city in Syrian Kurdistan, in support of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army, who were defending the city.[232]

On 2 October, the U.S. led a ninth round of strikes, along with the UAE, against ISIL forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL checkpoint near Kobanî, damaged a tank north of Sinjar Mountain, destroyed a tank west of Raqqa, and destroyed several ISIL facilities east of Aleppo.[233]

In a 10th round of airstrikes in Syria on 3 October, the U.S., assisted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, struck ISIL forces in Northern and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL garrison south of Al-Hasakah, destroyed two tanks southeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroyed two modular oil refineries and a training camp south of Raqqa, and struck an ISIL building northeast of Aleppo.[234]

On 4 October, the U.S. led an 11th round of airstrikes, along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, against ISIL forces across Syria. The U.S. and partner nations carried out nine strikes, destroying an ISIL infantry unit, armored personnel carrier, and a vehicle south of Kobanî. They also destroyed a tank and a vehicle southeast of Deir ez-Zor, damaged the Tabqa airfield and destroyed an artillery piece near Raqqa, as well as an ISIL depot and logistics complex south of Al-Hasakah.[235]

In a 12th round of airstrikes in Syria on 5 October, the U.S. carried out three airstrikes against ISIL forces in Central and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL tanks and another vehicle northwest of Mayadin, and destroyed six firing positions and a large ISIL unit northwest of Raqqa.[236]

On 6 October, the U.S. carried out a 13th round of airstrikes in Syria against ISIL forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL tank near Tabqa airfield west of Raqqa, destroyed two fighting positions south of Kobanî, and destroyed a tank southeast of Deir ez-Zor.[237]

In a 14th round of airstrikes in Syria on 7 October, the U.S., assisted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, carried out nine strikes damaging multiple ISIL-controlled buildings west of Al-Hasakah, damaging a staging area and IED production facility northeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroying three armed vehicles, damaging one armed vehicle, destroying a vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery, destroying an ISIL tank, and an ISIL unit in and around Kobanî, and killing a small group of fighters southwest of Rabiyah.[238]

On 8 October, the U.S. led a 15th round of nine airstrikes along with the UAE, destroying an armored personnel carrier, four armed vehicles, an artillery piece, and damaged another armed vehicle in and around Kobanî, striking an ISIL training camp and fighters northwest of Raqqa, and destroying a tank northwest of Deir ez-Zor.[239]

In a 16th round of airstrikes in Syria on 9 October, the U.S. carried out nine airstrikes in the areas in and around the besieged border town of Kobanî. The U.S. carried out six airstrikes south of Kobanî that destroyed two ISIL-held buildings, one tank and one heavy machine gun along, a fighting position along with one large and two small ISIL units. North of Kobanî, the U.S. struck two small ISIL units and destroyed two ISIL-held buildings.[240]

A before and after picture of an ISIL command and control center, after an F-22 airstrike on 23 September

On 10 October, the U.S. led a 17th round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, carrying out nine strikes that destroyed two ISIL training facilities, three vehicles, damaging a tank and striking two ISIL units in and around Kobanî. The strikes also destroyed an armored vehicle staging facility east of Deir ez-Zor and struck a small ISIL unit northeast of Al-Hasakah.[241]

In an 18th round of airstrikes in Syria on 11 October, the U.S. carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî. The U.S. carried out four strikes north of Kobanî striking a fighting position, damaging a command and control facility, destroying a staging building, and striking two small ISIL units. South of Kobanî, two airstrikes destroyed three trucks.[242]

On 12 October, the U.S. led a 19th round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, carrying out four strikes — three in Kobanî, destroying a fighting position and a staging area, and one strike northwest of Raqqa, destroying an armored vehicle compound.[243] Also on 12 October, the U.S. announced that the Turkish government had approved the use of Turkish military bases by Coalition forces fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq. These installations included key bases only 160 km (100 mi) from the Syrian border and important U.S. military bases in Turkey such as the Incirlik Air Base.[244][245] Despite the announcement of Turkish government approval, on 13 October, Turkish officials publicly denied that any agreement had been made over Coalition use of Turkish airbases, including Incirlik.[246]

In a 20th round of airstrikes in Syria on 13 October, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia carried out eight airstrikes against ISIL forces. Seven of the strikes were in and around Kobanî, striking a large ISIL unit, two small units; damaging one staging location and destroying another, destroying a heavy-machine-gun firing position, destroying three buildings, and damaging two others. One other strike northwest of Raqqa struck an ISIL garrison.[247]

On 14 October, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia carried out the 21st round and the largest set of strikes against ISIL in Syria since the beginning of the intervention, with 21 strikes against targets in and around Kobanî, and an additional strike near Deir ez-Zor. According to the Department of Defense, the strikes were designed to interdict ISIL reinforcements and resupply zones and prevent ISIL from massing combat power on the Kurdish-held portions of Kobanî. The strikes destroyed two staging locations and damaged another, destroyed one ISIL building and damaged two others, damaged three ISIL compounds, destroyed one truck, one armed vehicle, and one other vehicle near Kobanî in support of Kurdish forces resisting the |siege of the town. In addition to those targets, the airstrikes struck seven staging areas, two mortar positions, three ISIL occupied buildings, and an artillery storage facility. An additional strike near Deir ez-Zor struck a modular oil refinery.[248]

F/A-18 Super Hornet taking off from USS Carl Vinson before carrying out strikes on ISIL targets in Syria

In a 22nd round of airstrikes on 15 October, the U.S. carried out 18 strikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed multiple fighting positions and also successfully struck sixteen ISIL-occupied buildings.[249]

On 16 October, the U.S. carried out a 23rd round of airstrikes with 14 airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî striking 19 ISIL-controlled buildings, two command posts, three fighting positions, three sniper positions, one staging location, and one heavy machine gun position.[250]

In a 24th round of airstrikes on 17 October, the U.S. carried out seven airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî and in north-eastern Syria. Six airstrikes took place near Kobanî, striking three ISIL-controlled buildings; they also destroyed two fighting positions, suppressed three fighting positions, and destroyed two vehicles. One other airstrike near Al-Shaddadi struck ISIL-controlled oil collection equipment, including several petroleum, oil, and lubricants tanks, and a pump station.[251]

On 20 October, the U.S. carried out a 25th round of airstrikes, with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed ISIL fighting positions, ISIL mortar positions, a vehicle, and one stray equipment supply bundle from a U.S. airdrop of Kurdish supplies in order to prevent the supplies from being captured.[252]

In a 26th round of airstrikes on 21 October, the U.S. carried out four airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL-controlled building, and a large ISIL unit.[253] The British Royal Air Force began operating over Syria in a surveillance role on the same date, making the UK the first Western country other than the U.S. to operate in both Iraq and Syria simultaneously.[81]

On 22 October, the U.S. carried out a 27th round of airstrikes with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL-controlled building and an ISIL logistical center.[254]

In a 28th round of airstrikes on 23 October, the U.S. carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Four strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, and an ISIL command and control center near Kobanî. Two strikes east of Deir ez-Zor destroyed several ISIL oil storage tanks.[255]

On 24 October, the U.S. carried out a 29th round of airstrikes with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck three ISIL units.[256]

In a 30th round of airstrikes on 25 October, the U.S. carried out one strike near Kobanî, destroying an ISIL artillery piece.[257]

On 26 October, the U.S. carried out its 31st round of airstrikes with five airstrikes against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying seven ISIL vehicles and an ISIL-controlled building.[258]

An F-22 Raptor being refueled prior to an airstrike on ISIL targets in Syria

In a 32nd round of airstrikes on 27 October, the U.S. carried out four strikes near Kobanî, destroying five ISIL vehicles and an ISIL-occupied building.[259]

On 28 October, the U.S. carried out its 33rd round of airstrikes, with four airstrikes conducted against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying four ISIL fighting positions and a small ISIL unit.[260]

In a 34th round of airstrikes on 29 October, the U.S. carried out eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, a small ISIL unit, six ISIL vehicles, an ISIL-controlled building, and an ISIL command and control node.[261]

On 30 October, the U.S. carried out a 35th round of airstrikes, with 12 airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî, and against targets near Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa. 10 strikes near Kobanî struck two small ISIL units, destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, and five ISIL-controlled buildings. One strike near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL headquarters building while another strike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL security building.[262]

In a 36th round of airstrikes on 31 October, the U.S. carried out four airstrikes in and around Kobanî, damaging four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL controlled building.[263]

Naming of Operation Inherent Resolve[edit]

Unlike previous U.S. combat operations, no name had been given to the American intervention in Syria and Iraq until it was announced in mid-October that the operational name would be Inherent Resolve.[264][265] The decision to keep the conflict nameless until then drew considerable media criticism.[266][267]

November 2014[edit]

On 1 November, the U.S. carried out a 37th round of airstrikes with five airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes suppressed or destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, and struck one ISIL-controlled building.[268]

In a 38th round of airstrikes on 2 November, the U.S. carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck five small ISIL units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles. Two airstrikes southeast of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL tank and two vehicle shelters.[268]

On 3 November, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 39th round of airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Four airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck an ISIL fighting position, a small ISIL unit, and destroyed two ISIL-controlled buildings. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL-controlled building.[268]

In a 40th round of airstrikes on 4 and 5 November, the U.S. carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî and north of Sinjar just across the Iraq-Syria border. Three airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck a small ISIL unit, two ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL dump truck that was used in the construction of fighting positions. One airstrike north of Sinjar destroyed an ISIL fighting position, used to launch mortar attacks, and struck a small ISIL unit manning the position. Two additional strikes north of Sinjar struck a small ISIL unit and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.[269]

USS Carl Vinson and support ships deployed for combat operations in Syria and Iraq.

On 6 and 7 November, the U.S. carried out a 41st round of airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Tell Abyad. Seven strikes in and around Kobanî struck three small ISIL units, seven ISIL fighting positions, and destroyed an ISIL artillery piece. One airstrike near Tell Abyad destroyed an ISIL weapons stockpile.[270]

In a 42nd round of airstrikes between 8 and 10 November, the U.S. carried out 23 airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. 13 airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck an ISIL vehicle and five small ISIL units, destroyed an ISIL-occupied building used as an ammunition stockpile, an ISIL command and control building, and seven ISIL fighting positions, as well as damaging two ISIL fighting positions. In addition, eight airstrikes southeast of Deir ez-Zor damaged several structures of an ISIL oil collection facility, which was used to trans-load oil for the black market, while two airstrikes east of Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL oil collection point.[271]

Between 11 and 12 November, the U.S. carried out a 43rd round of airstrikes with 16 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Al-Hasakah. 10 airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck eight small ISIL units, damaged three ISIL fighting positions, and destroyed an ISIL logistics facility. Four airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL crude oil collection facility, struck a small ISIL unit, and damaged an ISIL vehicle. Two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah damaged a crude oil collection point.[272]

In a 44th round of airstrikes between 13 and 14 November, the U.S. carried out 20 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, east of Deir ez-Zor, west of Aleppo, and east of Raqqa. 17 airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck ten ISIL units, destroyed 10 fighting positions, an ISIL controlled building, two ISIL vehicles, and an ISIL motorcycle. One airstrike east of Raqqa destroyed an ISIL training camp and another airstrike east of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL oil collection point. One other airstrike west of Aleppo struck militants associated with the Khorasan group.[273]

Between 15 and 17 November, the U.S. carried out a 45th round of airstrikes with 11 airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, suppressed an ISIL fighting position, destroyed four ISIL staging areas, and struck one tactical ISIL unit. Two airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor struck an ISIL crude oil collection facility and destroyed one ISIL tank.[268]

In a 46th round of airstrikes between 18 and 19 November, the U.S. carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî, southeast of Al-Hasakah, and near Hazm. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL staging area and three ISIL controlled buildings, suppressed two ISIL fighting positions, struck two tactical ISIL units, and a large ISIL unit. One airstrike southeast of Al-Hasakah damaged a crude oil collection point operated by ISIL while another airstrike near Hazm struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the Khorasan Group.[274]

Between 20 and 21 November, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 47th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed four ISIL staging areas, two ISIL-controlled buildings, two ISIL tactical units, and suppressed an ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL barracks building.[268]

In a 48th round of airstrikes between 22 and 24 November, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL fighting positions along with two ISIL staging areas, damaged an ISIL staging area, and suppressed four ISIL fighting positions. Two strikes near Raqqa struck an ISIL headquarters building.[275]

Between 25 and 26 November, the U.S. carried out a 49th round of airstrikes with 10 airstrikes in and around Kobanî striking an ISIL fighting position, a large ISIL unit, two tactical ISIL units, and destroying four ISIL staging areas and six ISIL fighting positions.[276]

In a 50th round of airstrikes between 27 and 28 November, the U.S. carried out two airstrikes near Kobanî and Aleppo. One airstrike near Kobanî struck an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL staging area while one airstrike near Aleppo struck a tactical ISIL unit.[268]

A coalition airstrike on ISIL positions in Kobanî.

Between 29 November and 1 December, the U.S. carried out a 51st round of airstrikes with 27 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Raqqa, and near Aleppo. 17 airstrikes near Kobanî destroyed two ISIL-occupied buildings, three ISIL tanks, three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL armored personnel carrier, three ISIL vehicles and two ISIL staging areas. It also struck seven tactical ISIL units, targeted six ISIL fighting positions and damaged an ISIL-controlled building. Nine airstrikes near Raqqa struck an ISIL electronic warfare garrison, an ISIL military garrison, an ISIL headquarters building, an ISIL jamming system, an ISIL tank and 14 ISIL vehicles while one airstrike near Aleppo struck a target associated with the Khorasan Group.[277]

December 2014

An F-16 Fighting Falcon being refueled after an airstrike on ISIL targets in Syria

In a 52nd round of airstrikes between 1 and 3 December, the U.S. carried out 14 airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying an ISIL vehicle, 17 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL staging area, and suppressed eight other fighting positions and stuck a large ISIL unit.[278]

Between 4 and 8 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 53rd round of airstrikes with 15 airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. 15 airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed four ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL-occupied buildings, two ISIL staging areas, two ISIL tanks, an ISIL motorcycle, a mortar, and struck eight tactical ISIL units along with two ISIL fighting positions. One airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL electronic warfare garrison.[279]

In a 54th round of airstrikes between 9 and 10 December, the U.S. carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî, destroying five ISIL fighting positions, striking three ISIL fighting positions, and striking a large ISIL unit.[280]

Between 11 and 12 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 55th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Aleppo, and near Al-Qa’im, Iraq. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL fighting positions and struck one ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Aleppo struck five ISIL-occupied buildings while another airstrike near Al-Qa’im on the Syrian border destroyed two ISIL fortifications.[281]

In a 56th round of airstrikes between 13 and 15 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Abu Kamal. Eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL-controlled buildings, and two ISIL staging positions as well as striking one ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Abu Kamal destroyed an ISIL vehicle.[282]

Between 16 and 17 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 57th round of airstrikes with six airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Abu Kamal. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed an ISIL controlled building, one ISIL staging area, one ISIL bunker, and an ISIL mortar, and struck two ISIL tactical units, two additional buildings, and two ISIL fighting positions. One airstrike near Abu Kamal destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.[283]

In a 58th round of airstrikes on 18 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying seven ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL building, and struck a tactical unit.[284]

A member of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army prepares to launch a BGM-71 TOW at a Syrian Army position in southern Syria, December 2014

On 19 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 59th round of airstrikes with four strikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Three airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed two ISIL controlled buildings and an ISIL staging area as well as striking two ISIL tactical units. One airstrike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL training compound.[285]

In a 60th round of airstrikes on 20 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying eight ISIL fighting positions.[268] On 21 December, the Coalition carried out a 61st round of airstrikes with three strikes in and around Kobanî destroying an ISIL staging position and two ISIL fighting positions as well as striking two ISIL fighting positions.[268]

In a 62nd round of airstrikes on 22 December, the Coalition carried out 12 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Aleppo, near Al-Hasakah, and near Raqqa. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed six ISIL fighting positions and struck four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL tactical unit. Three airstrikes near Aleppo destroyed artillery equipment and struck 10 ISIL buildings; two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle, two ISIL trucks, a building, and two ISIL storage containers, and one airstrike near Raqqa destroyed an ISIL checkpoint complex.[286]

On 23 December, the Coalition carried out a 63rd round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building and struck several ISIL fighting positions and one airstrike near Barghooth struck ISIL oil collection equipment.[287]

In a 64th round of airstrikes on 24 December, the Coalition carried out ten airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. Eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building, an ISIL staging position, and struck three ISIL tactical units, an ISIL tactical vehicle and an ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor struck a crude oil collection point and another airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL weapons stockpile.[268]

On 25 December, the Coalition carried out a 65th round of airstrikes with 15 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Al-Hasakah, and near Raqqa. 13 airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL buildings, one vehicle, 17 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL staging positions as well as striking two ISIL fighting positions, three large ISIL units and four ISIL tactical units. One airstrike near Al-Hasakah struck an ISIL drilling tower and destroyed two support vehicles and another airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL assembly area.[268]

In a 66th round of airstrikes on 26 December, the Coalition carried out four airstrikes in and around Kobanî, destroying three ISIL buildings and two ISIL vehicles.[268] On 29 December, the Coalition carried out a 67th round of airstrikes with 12 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. 10 airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, and an ISIL storage container, and struck an ISIL tactical unit. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor struck several ISIL-controlled buildings while another airstrike near Raqqa also struck several ISIL-controlled buildings.[288]

In a 68th round of airstrikes on 30 December, the Coalition carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL buildings, damaged one ISIL building, and struck an ISIL tactical unit while one airstrike near Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL shipping container.[289]

On 31 December, the U.S. and coalition partners carried out a 69th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Al-Hasakah. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL buildings and six ISIL fighting positions while two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah destroyed four oil derricks controlled by ISIL.[290]

2015

January 2015

King Salman of Saudi Arabia with President Obama in January 2015. Saudi Arabia was involved in the CIA-led Timber Sycamore covert operation to train and arm Syrian rebels.[291]

In a 70th round of airstrikes on 1 January, the Coalition carried out 17 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. 13 airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed 12 ISIL controlled buildings, four ISIL fighting positions, one ISIL vehicle as well as striking two ISIL tactical units and two large ISIL units. Two airstrikes near Raqqa destroyed five ISIL checkpoints and struck an ISIL staging area, while two airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL fighting position and struck an ISIL shipping container.[268]

February 2015 – Al-Hasakah offensive

On 5 February 2015, Jordan elevated its role in the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, launching one of the largest airstrike campaigns since early January 2015, targeting ISIL militants near Raqqa, the then-de facto ISIL capital, inflicting an unknown number of casualties and damaging ISIL facilities. This was done in retaliation against ISIL’s brutal murder of Muath al-Kasasbeh.[292][293]

On 6 February, a continued round of Coalition airstrikes at Raqqa killed over 30 ISIL militants.[294]

On 21 February, Syrian Kurds launched an offensive to retake ISIL-held territories in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, specifically in the Tell Hamis area, with support from U.S. airstrikes. At least 20 villages were liberated, and 12 militants were killed in the clashes.[295] In response, on 23 February, ISIL abducted 150 Assyrian Christians from villages near Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria, after launching a large offensive in the region.[296][297]

As a result of ISIL’s massive offensive in the west Al-Hasakah Governorate, the U.S.-led Coalition increased the number of airstrikes in the region to 10, on 24 February, in order to halt the ISIL advance. The airstrikes struck nine ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles.[268]

On 26 February, the number of Assyrian Christians abducted by ISIL from villages in northeastern Syria from 23–25 February rose to at least 220, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring group based in Britain.[298][299]

On 27 February, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Kurdish fighters had recaptured the town of Tell Hamis, along with most of the villages occupied by ISIL in the region. At least 127 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes, along with 30 YPG and allied fighters.[300] One Australian volunteer, who was fighting for the YPG, was also killed.[301] Many of the remaining ISIL militants retreated to Tell Brak, which quickly came under assault from the YPG and allied Arab fighters.

March–April 2015 – Battle of Sarrin and expanded Canadian and UK efforts

On 1 March 2015, YPG fighters, aided by U.S. airstrikes, were able to drive ISIL militants out of Tell Brak, reducing the ISIL occupation in the eastern Jazira Canton to the villages between Tell Brak and Tell Hamis.[302]

On 6 March, it was reported that Abu Humam al-Shami, al-Nusra‘s military chief, was killed in a U.S. airstrike targeting a meeting of top al-Nusra leaders, at the al-Nusra Front’s new headquarters at Salqin.[55]

On 9 March, the U.S. carried out another airstrike on the al-Nusra Front, targeting a military camp near Atimah, close to the Turkish border in the Idlib Governorate. The airstrike left nine militants dead.[303]

On 24 March, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would be looking to expand Operation Impact to include airstrikes against ISIL in Syria as well.

On 26 March, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence announced the deployment of around 75 military trainers and headquarter staff to Turkey and other nearby countries in the anti-ISIL coalition, to assist with the U.S.-led training programme in Syria. The programme was set to provide small arms, infantry tactics and medical training to Syrian moderate opposition forces for over three years.[193]

On 30 March, the House of Commons of Canada authorized the extended deployment of its military for one year and to conduct operations related to the war in Syria.[304]

On 8 April, Canada initiated airstrikes in Syria, with two CF-18 fighters bombing a former military installation of the Syrian government that was captured by ISIL, near its headquarters in Raqqa.[304]

May 2015 – Al-Amr special forces raid

On 15 May, after surveillance by British special forces confirmed the presence of a senior ISIL leader named Abu Sayyaf in al-Amr,[305] 1st SFOD-Delta operators from the Joint Special Operations Command based in Iraq conducted an operation to capture him. The operation resulted in his death when he tried to engage U.S. forces in combat and the capture of his wife Umm Sayyaf. The operation also led to the freeing of a Yazidi woman who was held as a slave. About a dozen ISIL fighters were also killed in the raid, two U.S. officials said. The SOHR reported that an additional 19 ISIL fighters were killed in the U.S. airstrikes that accompanied the raid. One official said that ISIL Forces fired at the U.S. aircraft, and there was reportedly hand-to-hand combat during the raid. UH-60 Black Hawk and V-22 Osprey helicopters were used to conduct the raid, and Umm Sayyaf was held by U.S. forces in Iraq.[50][306][307]

CNN reported that a senior U.S. military official revealed that in May 2015, U.S. special operations forces came “tantalisingly close” to capturing or killing ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Raqqa, but failed to do so because classified information was leaked to the news media.[308]

Secretary of State John Kerry with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, before a bilateral meeting focused on Syria, 2015

Coalition air support was decisive in the YPG victory over ISIL in the May 2015 Western al-Hasakah offensive.

June–July 2015

U.S. air support, particularly from the 9th Bomb Squadron, was decisive in the YPG victory over ISIL in the Second Battle of Sarrin.[309] Coalition air support was also decisive in the YPG/FSA victory over ISIL in the Tell Abyad offensive.[310]

Following a 20 July suicide bombing in the Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey, believed to have been carried out by ISIL militants, as well as an ISIL cross-border attack that killed a Turkish serviceman on 23 July, Turkish armour and aircraft struck ISIL targets in cross-border engagements in northern Syria. Turkey also agreed to let the United States use the USAF Incirlik Air Base for strikes against ISIL.[311][312]

August–October 2015 – UK drone strike and Canada ceases airstrikes

On 21 August, three Islamic State fighters, two of United Kingdom nationality, were targeted and killed in Raqqa by a British Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper strike. Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement to Parliament that one of the British nationals targeted had been plotting attacks in the UK. Another British national was killed in a separate air strike by U.S. forces in Raqqa on 24 August.[313]

Military situation in November 2015

In October 2015, 50 U.S. special forces operators were deployed to northern Syria to help train and coordinate anti-ISIL forces in the region.[314]

The introduction of Russian aircraft and ship based cruise missiles in support of the Syrian Government to Syrian airspace created new threats to the U.S.-led coalition. Discussions were held to deconflict Syrian airspace.

On 10 October, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported claims that two U.S. F-16 jets had “violated Syrian airspace” and bombed two electricity power plants in al-Rudwaniya, east Aleppo, “in breach of international law“.[315]

On 20 October, Canada’s Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau informed Barack Obama by phone of Canada’s intention to pull out of bombing raids in Syria. Canada would remain a coalition partner but will stop strikes.[316]

November–December 2015 – French retaliation and the UK officially begins airstrikes

U.S.-backed YPG fighters in November 2015

After deadly terror attacks in Paris conducted by jihadists, French President Francois Hollande sent its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, with its 26 fighters to intensify air strikes.[317]

On 27 November, SANA claimed that the coalition targeted water pumping stations in al-Khafsah area, east of Aleppo, causing them to go out of service.[318][319] According to Bellingcat‘s investigation, however, it was Russian MoD bombing[320]

On 2 December, the UK parliament voted 397-223 in favour of airstrikes in Syria.[321] Within hours, RAF Tornado jets carried out their first air strikes, targeting the al-Omar oil fields near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, which were under ISIL control.[322]

On 6 December, a Syrian Arab Army base at Deir ez-Zor was struck, killing at least one Syrian Arab Army soldier, with reports circulating that as many as four were killed, 13 wounded and two tanks destroyed. Syria accused the U.S. of conducting the strike, however U.S. officials denied this, claiming instead that the bombing was a mistake by Russians.[323] After the airstrikes, the SAA reported that ISIL forces began to attack the base.[324]

2016

March–April 2016 – Continued special forces operations

On 4 March, a U.S.-led Coalition airstrike targeted Omar al-Shishani, ISIL’s top field commander, who was travelling in a convoy near al-Shaddadi in northeastern Syria; the strike injured him, and supposedly died from his injuries,[325][326][327] however this was incorrect and he was actually killed later in an airstrike in Iraq in July 2016.[328] Also on 4 March, 100 ISIL militants assaulted Peshmerga lines in Syria; U.S. Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV helped the Peshmerga to repel the attack. As ISIL fighters sent a car bomb towards him, Keating led a team to counterattack with sniper and rocket fire. For his actions during the battle, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.[329]

On 24 March, U.S. special operations forces conducted an operation with the intent of capturing Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli in Syria. Al-Qaduli, then the 6th most wanted terrorist in the world and, according to analysts, the then-second-in-command of ISIL, acting as the group’s finance minister and was involved in external plots; he also temporarily commanded ISIL after a commander was injured. U.S. Special forces inserted by helicopter and layed in wait to intercept his vehicle; the operators attempted to capture him but the situation escalated and, at the last moment, they decided to fire on the vehicle instead, killing al-Qaduli and 3 other militants.[325][326][330][331]

On 25 April, it was reported that U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of an additional 250 special operations soldiers to Syria. In the following weeks, they are to join the 50 that are already in the country; their main aim is to advise, assist and expand the ongoing effort to bring more Syrian Arab fighters into units the U.S. supports in northern Syria to combat ISIL.[332][333]

May 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a meeting on Syria in May 2016

In late May 2016, more than a dozen U.S. special forces troops were seen in the village of Fatisah, less than 64 km (40 mi) north of Raqqa. They were fighting near the front lines with the YPG and wearing both YPG and U.S. insignia on their military uniforms; the operators were helping call in fire support for local SDF forces and coordinating airstrikes from behind the front lines in their advance toward Raqqa. However, the Pentagon and White House insisted that the troops were not fighting ISIL on the front lines and were still participating in a non-combat mission known as “train, advise and assist.”[334][335][336] Also in late May, a U.S. special forces operator was wounded north of Raqqa by indirect ISIL rocket or mortar fire.[337][338]

The Telegraph reported that British special forces had been operating on the frontline in Syria, particularly in May when they frequently crossed the border from Jordan to defend a New Syrian Army (NSA) rebel unit composed of former Syrian special forces as it defended the village of al-Tanf against ISIL attacks. They mostly helped the unit with logistics such as building defenses and making bunkers safe. The NSA captured the village that month and faced regular ISIL attacks; an ISIL SVBIED drove into the base and killed 11 members of the NSA and injuring 17 others. The wounded were CASEVAC‘d by U.S. helicopters to Jordan; the suicide attack damaged the structure of the al-Tanf base; British troops crossed over from Jordan to help them to rebuild their defences.[339][340]

June 2016 – Kurdish offensive to take Manbij

On 1 June, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that a “thousands”-strong SDF force consisting of Sunni Arab fighter and a small contingent of Kurdish fighters (mainly from the YPG) with assistance by U.S. special forces operators and fighter jets launched an operation to recapture the strategically important ISIL-held city of Manbij in northern Syria, 32 km (20 mi) from the border with Turkey; ISIL used the town to move supplies and foreign fighters into Syria from Turkey. In the 24 hours since the start of offensive, 18 U.S. airstrikes destroyed ISIL headquarters buildings, weapons caches, training areas, six bridges and an unknown number of ISIL fighters were killed; 15 civilians were also reported killed.[337][341]

USAFCENT CAOC at Al Udeid Air BaseQatar provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq and Syria.

On 3 June, F/A-18 Hornets launched from USS Harry S. Truman conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean. It was the first time the U.S. Navy had conducted strike missions in the Middle East from the Mediterranean Sea since flying operations against the Iraqi military in 2003.[342]

By 9 June, the U.S. Central Command said the Coalition had conducted more than 105 strikes in support of the SDF’s advance; French special forces were offering training and advice to SDF fighters in the area[343] and on 15 June, British special forces were also reported to be operating in the area. Much of the SDF advance was made possible by Coalition air support, with airstrikes being directed by special forces personnel on the ground.[344] On the same day, four U.S. special operations troops in northern Syria were “lightly” wounded by shrapnel when an Islamic State anti-tank missile fired at a nearby vehicle exploded, but they quickly returned to duty.[345][346][347]

On 16 June, supposedly as part of Russia‘s campaign to pressure the U.S. to agree to closer cooperation over Syria, Russian military aircraft bombed, with cluster bombs, a military outpost in al-Tanf in southeast Syria that was garrisoned by the New Syrian Army (NSA); U.S. and British special forces based in Jordan regularly worked with Syrian rebels at the al-Tanf outpost. The airstrike happened 24 hours after a detachment of 20 British special forces left the outpost. After the airstrike took place, U.S. commanders warned Russia that the garrison was part of the international coalition against ISIL and therefore shouldn’t be attacked, but 90 minutes later, nearby U.S. warplanes observed Russian jets dropping a second barrage of bombs on the outpost, killing four rebel soldiers. A U.S. spy plane overhead tried to contact the Russian pilots on emergency frequencies, but the Russians did not answer. U.S. officials demanded an explanation from Moscow, but they were told the Russian pilots struck the outpost because they “thought it was an ISIL base”, Russian officials then said that Jordan had approved the strikes in advance, but Jordan denied this. Moscow also claimed its air command headquarters in Syria was unable to call off the strikes because the U.S. had not given them the precise position of the outpost.[348][349]

On 29 June, as part of the 2016 Abu Kamal offensive — the offensive by the Pentagon-trained New Syrian Army and several hundred other rebels from different factions that aimed to capture Abu Kamal and sever ISIL’s transit link between Syria and Iraq — rebel forces entered the al-Hamdan air base — 5 km (3 mi) northwest of the border town Abu Kamal following intense clashes. This followed significant advances into ISIL-held territory near the Abu Kamal border crossing, the NSA said it had captured a number of ISIL positions on the outskirts of Abu Kamal, but a raid on the town at dawn was reported to have been repelled by militants. Fighting continued around the town, as coalition airstrikes were carried out on ISIL hideouts; the NSA also said it was coordinating the assault with Iraqi government forces, who were advancing on the border from the other side. The NSA issued a statement saying “the NSA maintains control of the desert, the approaches to Abu Kamal, and maintains freedom of manoeuvre”. later on that day, ISIL militants ambushed the rebels, inflicting heavy casualties and seizing weapons, according to a rebel source. ISIL retook the airbase from the NSA and continued to advance against the rebels, recapturing some of the outposts the NSA had captured south of the town; Coalition helicopters dropped in “foreign” airborne troops on the southern edge of Abu Kamal to help the rebels in their advance; coalition jets also carried out eight airstrikes on ISIL targets in the Abu Kamal area.[350][351][352][353] A contributing reasons for the failure of the U.S.-backed rebel operation was the withdrawing of air support at a critical moment; the aircraft assigned to the operation were ordered in the middle of the operation to leave the area and instead fly to the outskirts of Fallujah, where a large convoy of ISIL fighters, which U.S. commanders considered a “strategic target”, had been seen trying to escape across the desert after the city was recaptured by the Iraqi army. The convoy was eliminated by American and British planes along with gunships and aircraft from the Iraqi air force.[354]

August 2016 – Operation Euphrates Shield

On 7 August, as part of Operation Tidal Wave II, “multiple” coalition warplanes destroyed some 83 oil tankers used by the Islamic State near Abu Kamal.[355]

CNN reported that the Coalition carried out airstrikes in support of the Turkish intervention in Syria with Syrian opposition forces in August 2016, which seized the town of Jarabulus from ISIL and pushed south and west in an effort to clear the terror group from its border. U.S. special forces had initially intended to accompany the offensive but the U.S. was still working on approving the proposal when Turkish units pushed across the border.[356]

On 30 August, the New York Times reported that Abu Mohammad al-Adnani was killed while traveling in a vehicle by a U.S. drone strike in Al-BabCNN reported that al-Adnani was a key deputy to ISIL’s leader, he also acted as the principal architect in ISIL’s external operations and as the group’s spokesman; he also coordinated the movements of their fighters – directly encouraging them to carryout lone-wolf attacks on civilians and military targets. The strike marked the highest-profile killing of an ISIL member thus far.[357][358][359]

September–October 2016 – Coalition air raid on Deir ez-Zor

On 8 September, an airstrike allegedly carried out by the United States killed Abu Hajer al-Homsi (nom de guerre Abu Omar Saraqib), the top military commander of the renamed al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) in the countryside of the Aleppo Governorate. Abu Hajer al-Homsi was one of the founding members of the al-Nusra Front and had taken part in the Iraq War against the U.S. when he was part of the processor organization al-Qaeda in Iraq.[56] The Pentagon denied carrying out the strike and instead claimed Russia was responsible.[360]

On 16 September, CNN reported that up to 40 U.S. special forces operators were accompanying Turkish troops and vetted Syrian opposition forces as they cleared ISIL from northern Syria. The mission, called Operation Noble Lance, was authorised that week and was now underway. Officially, the U.S. personnel were to conduct the same type of “advising, assisting and training” missions that the U.S. had been providing to moderate opposition and local anti-ISIL forces.[356] The Washington Post reported that the contingent of Special Operations forces (SOF) assisting the Turkish and Syrian rebel forces around the cities of Jarabulus and al-Rai were sent at the request of the Turkish government.[361]

On 17 September, two U.S. A-10s, two Danish F-16s, and a UK Reaper drone[362][363] mistakenly bombed a Syrian Army-controlled base in the ISIL-besieged city of Deir ez-Zor. More than 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and at least 100 were wounded in the airstrike.[364][365] ISIL forces attacked immediately after the Coalition airstrike and took the strategically important elevation near Deir ez-Zor airbase: Tharda (Thurda) mountain. According to Russian and Syrian government sources, SAA forces, supported by Russian and Syrian airstrikes, counterattacked and recaptured Tharda mountain by the end of the day, suffering additional losses, including one Syrian jet fighter.[366][367] The USAF immediately issued an official explanation[368] – it was a navigation\intelligence mistake and bombing was stopped after Russian Air Force contact informed them about the SAA loses.[369] The Danish Air Force confirmed that their two F-16 fighters participated in the airstrike, insisting that operations stopped the split-second they received the message from the Russians and explaining it as a mistake and was regretting the losses.[370] Russian officials accused the U.S. in helping ISIL due to the air raid.[371] Russia also called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the airstrike and the U.S. temporarily ceased airstrikes in the area.[372] In response to the errant airstrike, the Syrian Armed Forces called it a “serious and blatant attack on Syria and its military”.[372]

On 3 October, Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a senior al-Nusra Front and previously Egyptian Islamic Jihad commander, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Jisr al-Shughur.[59]

November 2016

A rebel fighter from the FSA loads a U.S.-made M2 Browning heavy machine gun in northern Aleppo, November 2016

On 18 November, a U.S. airstrike killed an Afghan al-Nusra Front commander, Abu Afghan al-Masri, in the town of Sarmada.[373]

On 24 November, the Washington Post reported that Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 was killed by an IED near Ayn Issa – roughly 35 miles northwest of ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. It was the first time a U.S. service member was killed in Syria since a contingent of SOF was deployed there in October 2015.[374]

CNN reported that on 26 November, a U.S. drone strike in Raqqa killed Boubaker Hakim, a senior ISIL terrorist suspected of enabling the Sousse terrorist attack as he had connections to the Tunisian ISIL cell that carried out the attack and the Bardo National Museum attack. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “His removal degrades ISIL’s ability to conduct further attacks in the West and denies ISIL a veteran extremist with extensive ties.”[375]

Stars and Stripes reported that in November 2016, airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing with a contingent of civil engineers, intelligence personnel, and security forces were temporarily deployed to expand and modify the airstrip that the airmen had established earlier in 2016 at an airbase where they deployed to near Kobani, so it can be used to assist in the offensive to retake Raqqa. The airbase gave the U.S. an additional location for its aircraft to support the Coalition and other anti-ISIL forces, but it had been used by U.S. forces limitedly due to the condition of the runway which restricted what types of aircraft could land there. General Carlton Everhart II, commander of U.S. Air Mobility Command, said that the base enabled aircraft to deliver critical supplies, equipment and help position forces; he added that airmen from the 621st group have supported anti-ISIL coalition forces on the ground in Syria.[376]

December 2016

On 4 December, it was reported that a U.S. airstrike in Raqqa killed three key ISIL leaders, two of whom (Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou) were involved in plotting the November 2015 Paris attacks.[377][378]

On 8 December, during the 4th Palmyra offensive, U.S.-led Coalition warplanes bombed an ISIL convoy near Palmyra in central Syria and destroyed 168 trucks carrying petroleum.[379]

On 10 December, it was reported that the U.S. was sending 200 more special operations personnel to Syria, joining the 300 U.S. special forces already in the country. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the troops would include special forces trainers, advisers and bomb disposal teams and that they will “continue organising, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces” to take the fight to ISIL. In particular, the troops will assist SDF forces in the ongoing Raqqa offensive; France also continues to have special operations units in the country.[380][381][382]

The New York Times reported that on 15 December, Coalition warplanes destroyed 14 Syrian Army T-72 battle tanks, three artillery systems and a number of buildings and vehicles that ISIL militants were using at a military base in central Syria that they seized the previous weekend from Syrian troops and their Russian advisers.[383]

On 31 December, a Coalition airstrike in Raqqa killed Mahmud al-Isawi, al-Isawi was an ISIL member who supported the organization’s media and intelligence structure in Fallujah before relocating to Raqqa. His role in the group was controlling the flow of instructions and finances between ISIL-held areas and ISIL leaders and provided support to propaganda and intelligence outlets; he was also known to have facilitated trans-regional travel with other ISIL external operations coordinators and had a close working and personal relationship with Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, the emir of ISIL’s Middle East attack network, according to the U.S. defense department.[384]

2017

Joseph DunfordHulusi Akar and Valery Gerasimov discussing their nations’ operations in northern Syria, March 2017

January 2017

On 1 January 2017, a United States drone strike killed Abu Omar al-Turkistani, a Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Turkistan Islamic Party military commander, and three other JFS members near the town of Sarmada in the northern Idlib Governorate.[385]

On 2 January, more than 25 JFS members were killed in an air raid by suspected U.S. warplanes.[386]

On 6 January, as part of the Raqqa offensive, SDF forces, supported by American special forces and international coalition aircraft, seized Qalaat Jaabar fortress after fierce fighting with ISIL jihadist fighters.[387]

On 8 January, coalition forces conducted a landing operation onto the road between the villages of Jazra and Kabr in the western Deir ez-Zor Governorate from four helicopters. The landing forces set up checkpoints on the road and raided a water plant in Kabr, where they killed and captured a number of ISIL fighters. After an hour and 15 minutes, the operation was complete and the forces withdrew.[388]

On 11 January, an air-to-surface missile launched from suspected U.S. aircraft hit a Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) convoy consisting of five vehicles and killed 14 JFS members.[389]

On 17 January, separate U.S. airstrikes in the Idlib Governorate killed Mohammad Habib Boussaboun al-Tunisi and Abd al-Jalil al-Muslimi, two Tunisian al-Qaeda external operations leaders.[390] Also that day, it was reported that U.S. warplanes and combat advisers were supporting Turkish military units battling ISIL fighters in northern Syria, particularly at the Battle of al-Bab.[391]

On 19 January, U.S. airstrikes by B-52 strategic bombers struck the former Syrian Army Sheikh Suleiman military base near Darat Izza, in western Aleppo, which was used by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. The airstrike killed at least 110 JFS fighters and some al-Zenki fighters,[392] including Abu Hasan al-Taftanaz, an al-Qaeda senior leader. Since 1 January 2017, more than 150 al-Qaeda members were killed by U.S. airstrikes in 2017.[120] The Sheikh Suleiman base had been operated as a training camp by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and al-Zenki since 2013.[392]

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), between 22 September 2014 and 23 January 2017, U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes killed 7,043 people across Syria, of which: 5,768 dead were ISIL fighters, 304 al-Nusra Front militants and other rebels, 90 Syrian government soldiers and 881 civilians.[393]

February 2017

On 1 February, it was reported that the U.S.-led Coalition had conducted an airstrike on the Carlton Hotel in the city of Idlib,[394] which local and NGO sources said was a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) facility[394][395] and which pro-government media said was used by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)’s former al-Nusra component for troop housing, and hosting meetings of prominent commanders.[396] The Coalition denied responsibility, although an investigation of open source materials confirmed a strike had occurred and that a SARC facility was damaged.[397]

On 2 February, Sky News reported that Turkish aircraft killed 51 Islamic State fighters in the space of 24 hours in the areas of al-Bab, TadefQabasin, and Bizaah. The airstrikes targeted buildings and vehicles resulting in 85 ISIL positions destroyed. According to Turkish military command, since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield, at least 1,775 ISIL militants had been “neutralised,” with more than 1,500 of those killed.[398]

On 3 February, U.S. airstrikes hit Jund al-Aqsa and Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) positions in Sarmin, near Idlib, and killed more than 12 militants.[27] On the same day, the Royal Jordanian Air Force launched several airstrikes on ISIL outposts in southern Syria.[399]

On 4 February, a U.S. airstrike killed Abu Hani al-Masri, who was part of Ahrar al-Sham at the time of his death, but described by the Pentagon as a former al-Qaeda commander. It was reported that there was speculation that he was about to defect to Tahrir al-Sham before his death.[122][400]

On 26 February, in Al-Mastoumeh, Idlib, a U.S. drone strike killed Abu Khayr al-Masri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda.[54][401][402] He had been released and allowed into Syria as part of a prisoner swap between Iran and al-Qaeda in 2015.[401][403][404][405] The U.S. airstrike also killed another Tahrir al-Sham militant, who was traveling in the same car.[406][407] It was later revealed in May 2019 that the missile used in the airstrike was a Hellfire R9X, which has a kinetic warhead with pop-out blades, intended to reduce collateral damage.[408]

March 2017 – Regular U.S. forces arrive and the Battle of Tabqa

United States special operations forces near Manbij, acting as advisors to the Syrian Democratic Forces, March 2017

On 8 March, various news outlets reported that regular U.S. troops, part of an amphibious task force, left their ships in the Middle East and deployed to Syria to establish an outpost from which they can provide artillery support for U.S.-backed local forces who were preparing to assault Raqqa in a battle to liberate the city from ISIL control. The deployment marked a new escalation in the U.S.’s role in Syria and put more conventional U.S. troops on the ground, a role that, thus far, had primarily been filled by Special Operations units. The ground force was part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit; 400 U.S. Marines from the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines were tasked to crew an artillery battery of M777 howitzers whilst additional infantrymen from the unit will provide security. Resupplies were to be handled by a detachment of the expeditionary force’s combat logistics element. A defense official with direct knowledge of the operation said the Marines were flown from Djibouti to Kuwait and then into Syria. By then, there were 900 U.S. soldiers and Marines deployed to Syria in total (500 special forces troops were already on the ground to train and support the SDF); under the existing limits put in place by the Obama administration, the formal troop cap for Syria is 503 personnel, but commanders have the authority to temporarily exceed that limit to meet military requirements. There were approximately 100 U.S. Army Rangers in Stryker vehicles and armored Humvees deployed in and around Manbij in northern Syria, U.S. officials said. Officially, they are there to discourage Syrian, Russian, or Turkish troops from making any moves that could shift the focus away from an assault on ISIL militants, specifically preventing them from inadvertently coming under fire. The U.S. believed the pressure on ISIL in Raqqa was working – a U.S. official said that intelligence indicates some ISIL leadership and operatives were continuing to try to leave the city. He added that there was also U.S. intelligence that indicated the city was laced with trenches, tunnels, roadside bombs and buildings wired to explode, which, if correct, indicated that the U.S. has likely been able to gather intelligence from both overhead surveillance aircraft and people on the ground. However, the official also noted that “Raqqa will probably not be the final battle against ISIS” and added that the group still has some personnel dispersed in areas south and east of the city. According to the official, the U.S. estimated that ISIL could have had roughly as many as 4,000 fighters in Raqqa. An official told The Guardian that in addition, the U.S. is preparing to send hundreds of troops to Kuwait on stand-by to be ready to fight ISIL in Syria if needed and the number would be fewer than 1,000. The Independent reported that Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the artillery unit and the Army Rangers would not have a front line role.[409][410][411][412][413][414]

U.S. Marines manning artillery in northern Syria, March 2017

On 16 March, a U.S. airstrike hit a mosque in western Aleppo and killed more than 42 people, mostly civilians. The location was assessed by the U.S. military as a meeting place for al-Qaeda and claimed that the airstrike hit a target across the mosque and was not targeted at the mosque itself.[415]

Stars and Stripes reported that on 28 March, an airman assigned to the 21st Space Wing died in a non-combat incident (possibly of natural causes) in northern Syria.[416]

On 22 March, hundreds of SDF fighters, with an undisclosed number of U.S. Special Operations troops operating as their advisers, launched a large-scale heliborne assault on ISIL around the area of the Tabqa Dam.[417][418][419] They were inserted on the southern bank of the Euphrates river behind ISIL’s defenses to take them by surprise; Colonel Joe Scrocca, an OIR spokesman, said that as a result of the air insertion behind ISIL lines, the SOF-SDF force did not come under fire. The following day, there was heavy fighting in the area; Col. Scrocca added that the ground forces were supported by helicopter gunships, U.S. Marine 155mm artillery and U.S. airstrikes.[417]

Airwars reported that March 2017 saw the greatest number of munitions dropped during the war thus far – 3,878 munitions on ISIL targets in both Syria and Iraq, based on figures published by United States Air Forces Central Command – as well as the highest number of civilian deaths (between 477 and 1,216 non-combatants, 57% of which were in Syria) to date, likely caused by Coalition strikes, exceeding casualties caused by Russian strikes for the third consecutive month.[420][421] Significant incidents that were attributed to Coalition strikes occurred in Tabqa and Kasrat al-Faraj during the Battle of Tabqa. The deadliest incident occurred in al-Mansoura, where local witnesses said at least 33 civilians were killed in a former school used to house displaced persons, although this was denied by the Coalition.[420]

April 2017 – Shayrat missile strike

File:US armoured vehicles pass through Qamishli.ogv

U.S. Army Stryker vehicles drive through Qamishli onwards to the Syria-Turkey border after border clashes between the YPG and Turkey

U.S. military transport helicopters fly over northeastern Syria

On 6 April, U.S. special forces conducted a landing operation against ISIL west of Deir ez-Zor. Two Coalition helicopters airdropped soldiers in the area who then interdicted a car[422] on route from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor. During the operation, U.S. forces killed four ISIL commanders and extracted a Jordanian spy who had infiltrated ISIL and served as one of its leaders.[423] CNN reported that the operation took place near Mayadin and that one of the ISIL commanders killed by U.S. forces was Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a top facilitator and close associate of ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; he was also connected to the 2017 New Year’s nightclub bombing in Turkey.[424]

On 7 April, in response to chemical weapon attacks (most notably the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack) against Syrian civilians allegedly by the Syrian government, the U.S. launched missile strikes on the airfield from which the chemical weapon attacks were allegedly launched.[425] This incident marked the first deliberate direct attack by the U.S. on the Assad government.[426] The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the attack as being based on false intelligence and against international law, suspended the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents that had been signed with the U.S., and called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.[427]

On 8 April, ISIL militants attacked a U.S. garrison at al-Tanf in Southern Syria: the garrison’s main gate was blown up with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), followed by a ground assault of about 20-30 ISIL militants, some of whom were wearing suicide vests. The U.S. Central Command said that the ″U.S. special operators″ at the base along with other coalition members and ″U.S.-backed Syrian fighters″, supported by multiple airstrikes, repelled the attack, with no American casualties.[428][429][430] The Telegraph reported that during the battle, ISIL militants also ambushed a convoy of reinforcements from an allied rebel group who were trying to relieve the base.[431]

Protest against U.S. military actions in Syria, Minneapolis, April 2017

CNN reported that on 11 April, a misdirected U.S. airstrike near Tabqa, during the ongoing Raqqa offensive, killed 18 SDF soldiers.[432]

May 2017

The BBC reported that on 9 May, a Royal Air Force drone strike stopped an ISIL-staged public killing. The hellfire missile killed an ISIL sniper positioned on a rooftop set to shoot civilians attempting to walk away. No civilians were harmed and other ISIL fighters fled on motorbikes.[433]

The Independent reported on 12 May that SDF forces had seized control of the Tabqa Dam after a deal struck by the SDF and around 70 ISIL militants; the deal included the dismantling of IEDs and booby traps, the surrender of heavy weaponry and withdrawal of remaining ISIL fighters from Tabqa city.[434]

On 18 May, the U.S. conducted airstrikes on a convoy of a pro-government militia during the 2017 Baghdad–Damascus highway offensive.[435] According to a U.S. defense official, before the strikes were conducted, government troops were warned they were getting too close to Coalition forces garrisoned at al-Tanf but did not respond.[436] According to the U.S., four or five vehicles were destroyed, including a tank[437] and two bulldozers.[438] In contrast, the Syrian Army reported that two tanks were destroyed and a Shilka SPAAG was damaged.[439] Eight soldiers were killed.[437][440]

June 2017 – Battle of Raqqa begins

United States Marine Corps howitzers provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa

On 6 June, SDF ground troops backed by Coalition airstrikes launched the battle for RaqqaUSCENTCOM reported that 4,400 munitions were fired in support of operations in Raqqa, a dramatic increase from previous months.[441]

Also on 6 June, U.S. aircraft conducted airstrikes on over 60 troops, a tank, artillery, antiaircraft weapons, and armed technical vehicles from pro-government forces that had entered what the Coalition called the al-Tanf “deconfliction zone”.[442][443] On 8 June, a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft shot down a drone and other aircraft destroyed two armed pick-up trucks belonging to pro-government forces that moved near U.S. backed fighters at al-Tanf.[444][445]

On 18 June, a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 after it allegedly bombed an SDF position in Ja’Din, south of Tabqa. A statement by the Syrian Army claimed that the plane was on a mission to bomb ISIL militants. The same day, pro-government forces captured the village of Ja’Din following an SDF withdrawal.[446][447][448][449] On 20 June, a U.S. F-15E shot down a pro-government Shahed 129 drone near al-Tanf after it “displayed hostile intent” and allegedly advanced towards Coalition forces.[450]

Across Iraq and Syria, Airwars tracked 223 reported Coalition airstrikes with civilian casualties during June 2017, likely killing a minimum of between 529 and 744 civilians (including at least 415 in Syria, mainly in Raqqa governorate, making it the second mostly deadly month for civilians since the strikes began in 2014.[441] Significant reported incidents included 3 June in Raqqa (20 civilians), 5 June (hitting civilians fleeing conflict), and 8 June in Raqqa (including reported white phosphorus use and a mosque hit).[441]

August 2017

On 21 August, U.S. forces in northern Syria were fired on by Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army units near Manbij, and returned fire in a short firefight.[451]

On 29 August, following the Qalamoun offensive, ISIL militants were surrounded by LebaneseHezbollah and Syrian forces on both sides of the Lebanon–Syria border. They negotiated a safe-passage deal so that 670 ISIL fighters and their relatives would be taken from the border in vehicles to Abu Kamal. The U.S. military disapproved of the deal; Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said the deal undermined efforts to fight the ISIL in Syria. U.S. aircraft carried out airstrikes, blocking the road the ISIL convoy was travelling on, before it reached ISIL-occupied territory in Deir ez-Zor Governorate. Dillon added that other U.S. airstrikes hit militants apparently attempting to join the stranded militants in the convoy.[451] The Independent later reported that the convoy was trapped in between the towns of Humayma and al-Sukhnah.[452]

September 2017

U.S. Green Berets during counter-ISIL operations in southern Syria, November 2017

On 3 September, the Independent reported that 400 ISIL militants and their families traveling in the convoy that was trapped by U.S. airstrikes in Syria in late August had abandoned their vehicles and began travelling on foot to the Iraqi border.[452]

December 2017

CNN reported that on 12 December, Maghawir Al-Thawra fighters accompanied by U.S. advisers intercepted a convoy of about ten vehicles that was passing through the 55 km “de-confliction” zone surrounding the coalition base at al-Tanf; a firefight ensued, resulting in 21 ISIL fighters killed and a further 17 captured.[453]

CNN reported that on 13 December, two U.S. F-22A fighters intercepted two Russian Su-25 jets that crossed the “de-confliction line” multiple times. An Air Forces Central Command spokesman said that “The F-22s conducted multiple maneuvers to persuade the Su-25s to depart our de-conflicted airspace, including the release of chaff and flares in close proximity to the Russian aircraft and placing multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area.” One U.S. defense official said that a Russian Su-35 fighter was also involved in the incident.[454]

On 22 December, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said that Australia will end their air strikes against the Islamic State and recall its six Super Hornet aircraft. Payne added that other Australian operations in the region would continue, with 80 personnel who are part of the Special Operations Task Group in Iraq, including Australian special forces, continuing their deployment.[455]

2018

January 2018

Military Times reported on 12 January that Coalition aircraft carried out more than 90 airstrikes between January 4 and January 11 near the Iraq-Syria border.[456]

Military Times also reported that on 20 January, U.S. airstrikes targeting an ISIL headquarters and command and control center in the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV) near Al-Shaafah killed nearly 150 ISIL militants. According to a press release, SDF fighters provided target observation and intelligence on the target.[457]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the United States’ support for Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria.[458]

February–March 2018 – The Khasham engagement

Kurdish YPG and YPJ fighters in February 2018

According to U.S. military officials, on 7 February, in deliberate air and artillery strikes, the U.S.-led coalition killed more than 100 pro-government fighters in the Euphrates River valley in Deir ez-Zor province after they launched an “unprovoked attack” against the Syrian Democratic Forces.[459] Syrian state news corroborated the events, but insisted that the Kurdish forces were mixed in with ISIL forces; it also stated that ten Russian mercenaries were among those killed.[460]

CNN reported that on 30 March, Master Sergeant Jonathan J. Dunbar of Delta Force and Sergeant Matt Tonroe of the British Special Air Service were killed by an IED blast during a mission in Manbij, the objective of which was — according to Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway — to “kill or capture a known ISIS member.”[461]

April–June 2018

On 14 April, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom had decided to carry out a series of military strikes against the Syrian government.[462][463] The strikes came in the wake of the Douma chemical attack.[464][465]

On 1 May, the SDF, in coordination with the Iraqi Armed Forces, announced the resumption of their Deir ez-Zor offensive to capture the final ISIL enclaves near the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates.[466] By 3 May, the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group had joined in support of the SDF’s anti-ISIL operations.[467]

U.S. and Turkish forces conduct joint patrols on the outskirts of Manbij, Syria, 8 November 2018

One 21 June, the U.S.-led coalition conducted airstrikes against Syrian army positions in east of Homs, killing at least 1 Syrian soldier.[468] On 22 June, the Coalition claimed that they responded to an attack by an “unidentified hostile force” near al-Tanf.[469]

November 2018

On 1 November, the Coalition began a series of joint patrols with the Turkish Armed Forces along the frontlines of the Kurdish-controlled Manbij region and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army‘s territory. The move was seen as a part of a “roadmap” to ease tensions between the two NATO allies and reduce violence between Kurdish and Turkish-backed elements.[470]

On 21 November, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced the U.S. would set up new observation posts along the Turkish border in northern Syria in order to reduce skirmishes between Turkish forces and armed Kurdish militants in the region such as the border clashes in late October-early November. Mattis affirmed that it was a co-operational endeavor with Turkey and it will not require additional U.S. troops to be deployed to Syria.[471][472]

December 2018 – Announcement of U.S. withdrawal

Military situation in December 2018:

 Controlled by the Syrian government
 Controlled by Syrian Kurds
 Controlled by the Islamic State (ISIL)
File:DVIDS - Video - Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve Strike Video.webm

CJTF-OIR airstike on an ISIL fuel truck in al-Susah, 29 November 2018

President Donald Trump, declaring “we have won against ISIS,” unilaterally announced on 19 December 2018 that the remaining 2,000-2,500 U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn. Trump made the announcement on Twitter, overruling the recommendations of his military commanders and civilian advisors, with apparently no prior consultation with Congress. Although no timetable was provided, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders indicated that the withdrawal had already been ordered. Various sources indicated that Trump had directed that the withdrawal be completed within 30 days.[473][143][144][474] However, Reuters was told by a U.S. official that the withdrawal was expected to take 60 to 100 days.[145][475] Following Trump’s surprise announcement, the Pentagon and State Department tried to change his mind, with several of his congressional and political allies expressing serious concerns about the sudden move, specifically that it would hand control of the region to Russia and Iran and abandon America’s Kurdish allies.[476][477]

CNN reported on 24 December that during the weeks before Trump’s withdrawal announcement, national security advisor John Bolton told senior officials to meet directly with anti-ISIL coalition partners to assure them that America would remain in Syria until Iran had left. One senior administration official commented that Trump’s decision was “a complete reversal,” done “without deliberation,” reportedly leaving allies and partners “bewildered.” According to one CNN analysis, the announcement reportedly came as the Coalition had reason to believe ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his top commanders were possibly cornered in a small pocket of northern Syria, “in a Tora Bora situation” akin to the region where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escaped from American forces in 2001.[478][479]

On 27 December, administration officials stated that USCENTCOM‘s troop withdrawal plan entailed the withdrawal taking place over several months instead of weeks, falling in line with Trump’s post-announcement comments that the pullout of U.S. troops would be “deliberate and orderly.” By the end of the month, it remained unclear whether anti-ISIL air operations would continue post-withdrawal.[480] By 31 December, after U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and a group of generals held a luncheon with the president over the withdrawal, Graham tweeted that Trump would seek a more gradual withdrawal over a course of several months; a slow down of the withdrawal was not officially confirmed by the administration at the time.[481]

In December 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that US troops involved in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in northeast Syria would be withdrawn imminently. Trump’s surprise decision overturned Washington’s policy in the Middle East. It fueled the ambitions and anxieties of local and regional actors vying over the future shape of Syria. Many experts proposed that President Trump could mitigate the damage of his withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Syria by using Special Activities Center.[482] Many believe the president chose “to replace U.S. ground forces in Syria with personnel from the CIA’s Special Activities Center” and that the process has been underway for months. Already experienced in operations in Syria, the CIA has numerous paramilitary officers who have the skills to operate independently in harms way. And while the CIA lacks the numbers to replace all 2,000 U.S. military personnel currently in Syria and work along side the Syrian Democratic Forces (these CIA personnel are spread cross the world), but their model is based on fewer enablers and support.[483]

2019

January 2019

File:DVIDS - Video - Coalition Forces Conduct Airstrike on Daesh Facility Syria.webm

CJTF-OIR airstrike on an ISIL building in al-Shaafah, 4 January 2019

On 6 January 2019, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, while on a trip to Israel and Turkey, said that the pullout of U.S. troops from Syria depended on certain conditions, including the assurance that the remnants of ISIL forces are defeated and Kurds in northern Syria were safe from Turkish forces.[484] However, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the call to protect Kurdish troops, whom he regarded as terrorist groups.[485] On 10 January, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria while continuing the battle against ISIL. He also stated that there would be no U.S. reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its “proxies” had left.[486][487] On 11 January, Coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan confirmed the U.S. troop withdrawal process from Syria had begun. “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” he said. The SOHR observed that the Coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in al-Hasakah.[488] U.S. defense officials said it had begun the removal of equipment, but not yet troops, and that the total amount of U.S. soldiers in Syria may temporarily increase in order to provide security for the final pullout. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed what he believed was a slower, more effective withdrawal by the U.S. after pressure from its allies.[489]

On 15 January the Coalition released fresh numbers regarding their ongoing operations in both Syria and Iraq. Between 30 December 2018 and 6 January 2019, the Coalition conducted 575 air and artillery strikes against ISIL in Syria; the strikes destroyed 105 ISIL mortar and rocket artillery units, 50 IED manufacturing sites, 26 vehicles, 19 weapons caches, and two UAV systems. Between January 7–13, airstrikes in the MERV near the Iraqi border also killed around 200 militants including four senior commanders.[490]

On 29 January, with ISIL cornered in its final redoubt due to the Kurdish-led conquest against it in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan proclaimed at his first news conference as SecDef that the Coalition will liberate all of the Islamic State’s remaining self-proclaimed caliphate in “two weeks”. “I’d say 99.5 percent plus of…the ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians. Within a couple of weeks it will be 100 percent,” Shanahan said. He added that the U.S. is still in the early stages of what he called a “deliberate, coordinated, disciplined withdrawal,” from Syria and that “very important dialogues going on in major capitals” about support to Syria once the U.S. leaves were ongoing.[491]

February 2019 – Kurds corner ISIL in Baghuz

President Donald Trump reiterated his support for withdrawing American ground troops from both Syria and Afghanistan in a series of tweets on 1 February amid proliferating concerns among America’s allies, politicians, analysts, and local activists over a feared power vacuum in Syria post-withdrawal. “I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the ‘Endless Wars’ of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace after 18 long years,” Trump tweeted. The day prior, the U.S. Senate had issued a rebuke of the president cautioning against the “precipitous withdrawal” of military forces; furthermore the United States Intelligence Community contradicted the president on its perception of the global threat ISIL continued to pose during a Senate committee hearing.[492] A draft Pentagon report emerged on 1 February warning that ISIL could regain territory in Syria within a year following a U.S. disengagement from Syria.[493] On 5 February, CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel noted during a Senate Armed Services Committee testimony that he had not been consulted prior to Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces, reinforcing the notion that the U.S. withdrawal was ordered completely unilaterally from the White House without prior consultation with relevant military advisors and Defense Department personnel.[494]

On 6 February, President Trump, while at a summit of 79 foreign ministers and officials that assisted in the global coalition against ISIL, predicted a formal announcement of a final victory against ISIL as early as the following week. “Remnants – that’s all they have, remnants – but remnants can be very dangerous,” Trump said in regards to ISIL. “Rest assured, we’ll do what it takes to defeat every ounce and every last person within the ISIS madness”.[495] The Wall Street Journal, citing State Department officials, reported on 8 February that the U.S. pullout was expected to be complete by April, with the majority of ground troops expected to be already withdrawn by mid-March. A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that the withdrawal included pulling troops from al-Tanf.[496]

An Operation Inherent Resolve summary on Coalition activity between 27 January and 9 February detailed air and artillery strikes conducted in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition conducted 176 strikes in Syria. Targets included: 146 ISIL tactical units, 131 supply routes, 53 fighting positions, 31 staging areas, 14 VBIEDs, 13 pieces of engineering equipment, 11 explosive belts, nine tankers for petroleum oil and lubricants, eight tactical vehicles, five command and control nodes, four buildings, three aircraft operations areas, three tunnels, two petroleum oil and lubricant storage facilities, two manufacturing facilities for IEDs, two artillery pieces, two weapons caches, and one armored vehicle.[497]

After the SDF’s assault on Baghuz Fawqani began on 9 February, CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel told CNN on 11 February that ISIL losing physical territory does not mean the end of the organization. “Putting military pressure on [ISIL] is always better, it’s always easier when you are there on the ground, but in this case our President has made a decision and we are going to execute that and so it’s my responsibility as the CENTCOM commander working with my chain of command to look at how we do that,” adding that the completion of the U.S. pullout was “weeks away…but then again it will be driven by the situation on the ground”.[498]

Trump tweeted late on 16 February urging European countries to repatriate the over 800 captured suspected ISIL members from Syria, warning the U.S. may be forced to release them otherwise. Kurdish prisons could not hold the ISIL members and all their families, totaling around 2,000 people, indefinitely. The Kurds called the situation a “time bomb”.[499][500] The U.S.-Kurdish demand to take responsibility got mixed responses from Europe. German foreign minister Heiko Maas said repatriation would be possible only if returning fighters could be immediately taken into custody, which would be “extremely difficult to achieve” without proper judicial information. France, whose citizens made up the majority of European ISIL recruits, said it would not act immediately on Trump’s call but would take militants back “case by case,” and not categorically. Britain has said its fighters can return only if they seek consular help in Turkey, while acknowledging repatriation was a dilemma. Belgium’s justice minister Koen Geens called for a “European solution,” urging “calm reflection and a look at what would pose the least security risks.” The Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, said the issue was “one of the greatest challenges ahead of us for the upcoming months.”[501]

After announcing the U.S. would keep a “peacekeeping” force of around 200-400 troops in Syria — instead of the initially planned total withdrawal — on 22 February, senior Trump administration and defense officials stated the decision was an endorsement of a plan pressed by U.S. military leaders for some time, calling for an international force, preferably NATO or regional Arab allies, of 800 to 1,500 troops that would monitor a safe zone along Syria’s border with Turkey.[502]

March–April 2019

On 10 March, John Bolton stated that he was “optimistic” France and the UK would commit personnel to the planned observer force. He also reiterated the U.S. commitment to keep troops in Iraq.[503] On 20 March, in response to new developments in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, President Trump predicted that the remaining ISIL holdout would be cleared “by tonight” during a speech at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio. “The caliphate is gone as of tonight,” he said, as he used maps depicting ISIL’s territorial collapse since November 2016; later, the November 2016 map was shown to actually be a map from 2014 when ISIL was at its peak territorial size, before the Coalition’s anti-ISIL operations.[504][505]

On 23 March, the U.S.-backed SDF announced victory in the battle of Baghuz, signifying the territorial collapse of ISIL in Syria, a critical milestone for the U.S.-led Syrian intervention.[37] U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Mulroy stated that the physical caliphate was defeated but ISIL was not and that there were over 10,000 completely unrepentant fighters left in Syria and Iraq.[506] He expected the U.S. to be in Syria for the long haul with a very capable partner in the Syrian Democratic Forces.[507][508][509] He said that the U.S. partnership with the SDF was a model to follow, like the partnership with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and with the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq as the northern front against Saddam Hussein.[510]

U.S.-Turkish negotiations over joint troop patrols in a designated safe zone along the northern Turkish-Syrian border continued into late April as the UK and France rejected a plan to provide troops to a buffer zone between Rojava and Turkey, claiming their missions in Syria are only to fight ISIL. With their troop numbers set to be cut to 1,000 in upcoming months, the U.S. reportedly prefers a narrower strip of land to patrol than the approximately 20 miles that Turkey has proposed. The Turks would send their own troops into the buffer zone while only demanding U.S. logistical help and air cover. The Turkish proposal reportedly saw push back as the Americans prefer to avoid a situation that effectively pushes the Turkish border 20 miles into Syria, further increasing the chances of clashes with the Kurds instead of reducing it.[511]

May 2019

The Syria Study Group, a U.S. Congressionally-appointed panel of experts tasked with assessing the situation in Syria, similar to the Iraq Study Group appointed in 2006, released an interim report on 1 May endorsing the view that instead of a draw down, the U.S. should reassert its presence in Syria, citing the prospect of a potential ISIL resurgence, Russian “prestige” after successfully propping up the Assad government, perceived Iranian entrenchment in the country, and al-Qaeda retaining control in the form of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham‘s dominance in northwestern Syria, a region U.S. warplanes rarely venture to due to the nearby presence of Russian air defenses deployed on behalf of the Syrian government. The report argued that the U.S. should step up attempts to isolate Assad and counter Iranian influence in the region; it also argued that the U.S. should take in more Syrian refugees, the admittance of which the Trump administration has reduced from thousands to just a few dozen in recent years. The report further underlined the differing views between the president and comparatively more hawkish Congress on what direction to take the U.S.’s commitments in the country.[512]

June–July 2019

A U.S. AH-64 Apache on an escort mission in northeastern Syria, 22 June 2019

On 30 June 2019, in a rare operation against non-ISIL elements, the U.S. carried out a strike against an al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) leadership meeting at a training facility west of Aleppo,[25] which killed eight jihadists from the Guardians of Religion Organization, including six commanders: two Tunisians, two Algerians, an Egyptian and a Syrian.[24] It was the first known coalition strike in western Syria since February 2017 due to the U.S. and Russia arranging an unofficial deconfliction boundary that largely bars any substantial U.S. forces from venturing into the region. The U.S. did not specify what assets were used in the strike.[513]

In July, U.S. special anti-ISIL envoy James Jeffrey continued to urge Britain, France and Germany to assist the U.S.’s ground mission in Syria. “We want ground troops from Germany to partly replace our soldiers” in the area as part of the anti-Islamic State coalition, Jeffrey told German media.[148]

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Deputy Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Michael Mulroy stated that the SDF has over 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters in custody from over 50 countries—in which they spend quite a bit of time, effort and resources taking care of—and that the U.S. has pushed these countries to take back their citizens. The number of Americans who joined ISIL on the battlefield is small compared to countries like France and the UK, where several hundred foreign fighters traveled from.[514]

August 2019

On 7 August 2019, the U.S. and Turkey reached a framework deal to jointly implement a demilitarized buffer zone in the areas between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers—excluding the Manbij area—in northern Syria. Terms of the deal include joint U.S.-Turkish ground patrols, the relocation of some Syrian refugees into the area, and the withdrawal of heavily armed YPG and YPJ forces and fortifications from the Syria–Turkey border, leaving the areas under SDF military council rule instead.[515] On 24 August, the SDF began dismantling border fortifications under the supervision of U.S. forces. On 27 August, YPG units began withdrawing from Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.[516]

On 31 August, in a second attack against non-ISIL militants in western Syria since June 30, the U.S. carried out a series of airstrikes on a Rouse the Believers Operations Room meeting between Kafriya and Maarrat Misrin, killing over 40 Guardians of Religion militants, including several leaders.[23][517]

October 2019

On 7 October 2019, a senior U.S. official said US troops will pull back from Syria and potentially depart the country entirely.[518] American troops left observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham indicated Turkey will “soon be moving forward” with military operations in Northern Syria. She further stated that “the United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”[519]

Airstrikes on the Khorasan Group

One of the groups targeted by U.S. airstrikes was the Khorasan Group, an extremist group of suspected al-Qaeda “core” members who were alleged to have been plotting an attack against the U.S. and other Western nations.[215] The strikes targeted Khorasan training camps, explosives and munitions production facilities, communications facilities, as well as command and control facilities. The group has been claimed to possess advanced bomb making skills and their plot is claimed to involve a bomb made of a nonmetallic device such as a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material.[520] The group is reportedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a leader of al-Qaeda and a close confidant of Osama bin Laden.[520] Intelligence officials expressed concern that the group may include militants who were taught by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the chief bomb maker for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who is known for his sophisticated bomb making techniques that nearly downed two Western airliners.[520]

Later statements by government officials indicated that the threat of a plot may have been less severe than initially reported.[521][522] One official indicated that “there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works”,[521] while another told The Guardian that “there was no indication of an imminent domestic threat from the group” at the time the United States began bombing.[522]

On 6 November, a second round of airstrikes was launched against Khorasan and al-Nusra in northwestern Syria, along with Ahrar ash-Sham at its headquarters in Idlib, whose leadership had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda.[31] On 13 November 2014, the US launched a third set of airstrikes against Khorasan.[523] On 19 November, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Hazm, which struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the group.[274] On 1 December, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Aleppo.[277]

On 24 March 2015, it was revealed that the US airstrikes on Khorasan had killed 17 militants from the group.[524]

On 8 July 2015, a US airstrike near the town of Sarmada in Idlib, Syria, killed Muhsin al-Fadhli, the leader of Khorasan.[62]

Ground operations

During the beginning of the coalition interventions, leaders, including U.S. President Obama, said coalition ground forces would not be used in the fight against ISIL either in Iraq or Syria unless they were local coalition forces.[525] While in Iraq thousands of coalition troops from the United States and other nations had been deployed in an advisory capacity, in Syria no ground troops from the coalition intervening in Syria were deployed in the beginning of the intervention.[526][527]

2015-16

Syrian Democratic Forces soldiers in Manbij, 2016

In November 2015, the Obama administration began the deployment of U.S. special forces to Syria, on the mission of assisting rebel forces in their fight against ISIL, President Obama then ordered several dozen Special Operations troops into Rojava in northern Syria to assist local fighters battling the Islamic State, authorizing the first open-ended mission by American ground forces into the country.[528]

ISIL’s deputy leader in Syria, Abu Ali al-Anbari, was killed by JSOC special forces operatives in March 2016, in eastern Syria near the Syrian–Iraqi border, while he and three other ISIL members were traveling in a vehicle coming from Raqqa. The US Special Forces ordered him to exit the vehicle, intending to arrest him. When he refused and pulled out an assault rifle instead, US forces fired at the vehicle, killing him and the other passengers on board. US commandos also seized electronics and other documents during the operation for intelligence purposes.[529]

In March 2016, King Abdullah of Jordan said that British forces had helped in the building up of a mechanized battalion in southern Syria, consisting of tribal fighters to combat the Syrian Army.[530]

On 17 March 2016, the day after the declaration of the Federation of Northern Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the Syrian Democratic Forces as having “proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting ISIL. We are grateful for that, and we intend to continue to do that, recognizing the complexities of their regional role.”[531]

Significant U.S. Armed Forces presence at Al-Tanf, Syria began in early 2016

During the SDF’s May 2016 offensive against ISIL in Northern Raqqa, U.S. Special Forces were widely reported and photographed to be present, with some of them wearing badges of the Kurdish YPG and YPJ on their uniforms.[532] On 21 May, Joseph Votel, commanding general of U.S. Central Command, completed a secret hours-long trip to northern Syria to visit several locations where there were U.S. special operations forces and meet with local forces the U.S. was helping train to fight ISIL. The visit came as the first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces were beginning to arrive in Syria to work with local forces. The commander overseeing the war in Syria, at the end of a long Saturday spent touring SDF bases, said “We do, absolutely, have to go with what we’ve got”.[533]

In September 2016, the U.S. spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) confirmed that the SDF, including the YPG, is also part of the “vetted forces” in the train and equip program and will be supplied with weapons. The President of TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned this and claimed that the SDF are “endangering our future”.[534]

In October 2016, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of the international coalition against ISIL, said that the SDF would lead the impending assault on Raqqa, ISIL’s then-stronghold and capital, and that SDF commanders would plan the operation with advice from American and coalition troops.[535] From November 2016, more than 300 U.S. Special Operations Forces were embedded to train and advise SDF fighters in the Raqqa offensive.[536]

2017-18

Kurdish troops and U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah, May 2017

U.S. Army 310th Engineer Company maintaining a Mabey Logistic Support Bridge during the Battle of Raqqa, 29 July 2017

File:DVIDS - Video - Coalition supports SDF fight against ISIS.webm

U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces operating in support of the SDF in Syria, October 2018

U.S. and Turkish soldiers conduct joint patrols, Manbij outskirts, 1 November 2018

In March 2017, the Trump administration deployed an additional 400 U.S. Marines to Syria to expand the fight against ISIL in the Raqqa offensive where they could provide artillery support for U.S.-backed local forces that were preparing an assault on Raqqa to liberate the city from IS militants. The deployment marked a new escalation in the U.S.’s war in Syria, and put more conventional U.S. troops in the battle that, until then, had primarily used Special Operations units. The 400 Marines were part of the 11th MEU from the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. They manned an artillery battery of M-777 Howitzers whilst additional infantrymen from the unit provided security; resupplies were handled by part of the expeditionary force’s combat logistics element.[537] During the Raqqa campaign alone, this small artillery battalion fired over 40,000 shells (including 34,033 155mm), more than were used in the entire 2003 invasion of Iraq and only 20,000 fewer than all those fired by the U.S. military in Operation Desert Storm.[538]

In March 2018, SDF press secretary in Deir ez-Zor Mehdi Kobani reportedly told Sputnik Turkiye that U.S. forces were building a “large military base” in the oil-rich al-Omar region of Deir ez-Zor as new equipment had been reportedly arriving to U.S. bases in Syria. The al-Omar oilfield is the largest oil deposit in Syria, and was captured by the SDF during their campaign against ISIL in October 2017.[539][540]

It was reported in June 2018 that the 441st Air Expeditionary Squadron reportedly maintains an unpaved runway in SarrinRaqqa Governorate.[541][542][543]

2019-20 partial withdrawal of U.S. ground forces

On 19 December 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he ordered the pullout of all 2,000-2,500 U.S. troops operating in Syria, though no clear timetable was given.[544] U.S. operations in al-Tanf continued into 2019.[545]

On 16 January 2019, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIL in the SDF-controlled town of Manbij killed four U.S. personnel and injured three servicemen, making it the deadliest attack on Coalition forces in the country since the intervention.[546][547][548] The ISIL attack drew a second round of criticism of the U.S. president’s withdrawal order, with critics linking the attack with an emboldening of ISIL terror and insurgent tactics due to the announcement of a U.S. pullout, despite the group’s continued loss of territory in Syria.[549] President Trump offered condolences to the families of the slain American citizens on 17 January while he reaffirmed his policy of withdrawing troops.[550] Trump paid tribute to the fallen Americans during a trip to Dover Air Force Base in the U.S. state of Delaware on 19 January, where their remains were received.[551]

On 21 January, an ISIL SVBIED targeted a U.S. convoy accompanied by SDF troops on the ShadadiAl-Hasakah road in Al-Hasakah province, killing five SDF personnel. Witnesses said the SVBIED rammed into an SDF vehicle by a checkpoint held by Kurdish forces a dozen kilometers outside Shadadi as the U.S. convoy drove past. No Americans were harmed.[552]

CNN reported on 24 January that additional U.S. troops were moved to Syria to help provide security for the pullout of equipment and personnel as they are moved out via air and land routes. U.S. Department of Defense officials said the additional security forces would move around Syria to different locations as needed and may move in and out of the country at times. Troop numbers would also fluctuate as American presence gradually declines. Defense officials declined to give specifics on numbers, locations, or timetables, citing security concerns.[553] Local sources reported to Anadolu Agency on 28 January that around 600 U.S. troops had allegedly entered eastern Syria from western Iraq to help with the withdrawal process, arriving at discreet bases in Harab Isk and Sarrin villages set to be used as main evacuation centers during the withdrawal. The news agency added that the American-controlled airfields in Rmeilan and Tell Beydar would be used to airlift heavy weapons and equipment from the country; the Coalition itself did not confirm these reports.[554]

By the end of January 2019, according to two U.S. officials, more than 10 percent of American equipment and supplies had been removed from Syria, with 3,000 additional personnel brought into the country to facilitate the draw-down of forces. By 9 February, hundreds of U.S. airstrikes and ground support for the SDF continued as the Kurdish-led force began its final assault on the last ISIL holdouts trapped in a small cluster of hamlets in eastern Syria (including Al-Baghuz Fawqani and southern Al-Marashidah) no larger than a few square miles. U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, believed the SDF would be able to defeat the remaining diehard ISIL fighters “in days”, bringing an end to ISIL’s claim of a territorial caliphate.[555]

On 18 February, Commander-in-Chief of the SDF Mazlum Kobane expressed hopes the U.S. would halt its total pullout. Kobane said there were discussions about perhaps French and British troops supporting them, but demanded 1,000-1,5000 U.S. troops stay in Syria to provide “air cover, air support and a force on the ground” to help the SDF in its ongoing fight against ISIL. CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel reiterated the U.S. withdrawal was continuing.[500]

With the general withdrawal continuing, the White House announced late on 21 February that 200 residual U.S. troops would remain in Syria as a “peacekeeping force”. The peacekeeping deployment would be indefinite.[556] The next day it was revealed the actual number was 400 troops, not 200, as half would be based in Rojava and half at al-Tanf. Officials stated it was a part of an initiative to get NATO allies to commit to a multinational observer force that would establish a “safe zone” in Rojava to keep the Kurds and Turks from clashing, to prevent pro-Syrian government forces from attacking the Kurds, and to keep up pressure to prevent an ISIL resurgence. The U.S. is not seeking a United Nations mandate for the deployment and currently does not envision asking NATO to sponsor the mission, an administration official said, adding that the troops would not technically be “peacekeepers,” a term that carries restricted rules of engagement.[502]

On 7 March, Gen. Joseph Votel confirmed that U.S. forces were in no rush to pullout by a specific date, instead saying the completion of the withdrawal was conditional on ISIL no longer posing a security threat to U.S. forces and their allies.[557] By late March, the U.S. continued to stretch the timetable for the pullout. On 29 March, U.S. officials reportedly said the Pentagon’s latest plans called for cutting its combat force in northeastern Syria roughly in half by early May 2019, or to about 1,000 troops, and would then pause pullout operations. The military would then reduce the number of forces every six months, depending on conditions on the ground, until it reaches the 400 troops previously approved by the president. Under this plan, the lowest troop numbers wouldn’t be reached until autumn 2020. The longer timetable would provide the U.S. more time to negotiate and work out details over the planned multinational safe zone along Turkey’s border. Officials cautioned that the timetable was open-ended and still subject to change, with factors ranging from allied troop contributions to new orders from the president himself.[558]

In early May, video emerged online of U.S. forces firing upon an alleged Syrian government barge ferrying oil supplies in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The video was posted on Facebook by the pro-SDF “Deir Ezzor Media Center”.[559]

Turkish involvement

Turkish soldiers and Free Syrian Army fighters at the building in Afrin that had hosted the PYD-led government of Afrin Region, 18 March 2018

Turkey, a NATO member, has been involved in the Syrian Civil War since the beginning of hostilities. Turkey has trained and armed some members of the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda in Syria,[560][561] and has been involved in certain spillover incidents, however so far Turkey has not been involved in direct combat. On 2 October 2014, the Turkish Parliament authorized direct military action in both Iraq and Syria including using military force in Syria and Iraq as well as allowing coalition members to use bases in Turkey.[562] Turkey has also stationed troops and tanks on its southern border near the Syrian border city of Kobanî.[563] The Turkish government demanded several things to go along with them intervening against ISIL, including a buffer zone in Northern Syria, a no-fly zone over certain parts of northern Syria, ground troops from other countries, and the training of moderate opposition forces to fight both ISIL and al-Assad.[564][565]

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden accused Turkey of funding al-Nusra and al Qaeda,[566] to which Erdoğan angrily responded, “Biden has to apologize for his statements” adding that if no apology is made, Biden would become “history to me.”[567] Biden subsequently apologized.[568]

Turkey also holds sovereignty over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah 35 km inside Syria, where it maintains a small garrison of Special forces that is surrounded by ISIL-controlled territory.[569]

On 22 February 2015, the Turkish Army mounted a rescue operation across the border to evacuate its soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, an exclave of Turkey south of Kobanî. The Turkish convoy reportedly transited through Kurdish-held Kobanî en route to the tomb. One Turkish soldier was killed in what Ankara described as an accident. The success of the operation was announced 22 February by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.[570]

Rising anti-American sentiment in Turkey has occurred since the start of the Turkish invasion of northern Syria in January 2018 aimed at ousting U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds from the enclave of Afrin. A poll conducted in Turkey during the operation revealed that 90 percent of respondents believed that the United States is “behind” the Kurdish PKK and YPG.[571] After the start of the Turkish invasion, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated that “Turkey is a NATO ally. It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns.”[572] Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag urged the United States to halt its support for Kurdish YPG fighters, saying: “Those who support the terrorist organization will become a target in this battle.”[573]

In October 2019, Senator Lindsey Graham warned that he would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria“. He said he would also “call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate”.[574]

Northern Syria Buffer Zone

U.S. and Turkish soldiers rendezvous in the Northern Syria Buffer Zone, 4 October 2019.

On 15 January 2019, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he agreed with setting up a 35 km “safe zone” in northern Syria after engaging with US President Donald Trump a couple days prior.[575]

On 7 August 2019, after months of negotiations, Turkey and the U.S. reached a deal to create a 115 kilometer buffer zone in northern Syria along the Syria–Turkey border between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Separate from Turkey’s own occupation zone in northern Syria, the deal is partly implemented to prevent a potential future Turkish ground incursion into Rojava against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. Under the framework of the deal, the U.S. and Turkey would conduct joint troop patrols and Turkish reconnaissance aircraft would be allowed to monitor the zone. Kurdish YPG and YPJ forces along the Turkish border would dismantle border fortifications and withdraw to a “security belt” alongside regular SDF forces and remove all heavy weapons from the area. In turn, Turkey would not conduct airstrikes or establish military observation posts in northern Syria and will not “occupy” the region, as administrative and civil rule will be relegated to SDF military councils and the Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. According to the SDF, the majority of the zone will not include any cities or towns.[576]

Reports of civilian casualties and war crimes

On 29 September 2014, several groups including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Aleppo Media Center, and the Local Coordination Committees reported that U.S. strikes hit a grain silo in the ISIL-controlled town of Manbij in northern Syria, killing two civilians.[577][578]

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported ten airstrikes, also targeting various parts of the province of Idlib, killed at least one child and six other civilians. The group said at least 19 civilians had been killed in coalition airstrikes at that time.[579] The Pentagon reported it had no evidence of any civilian casualties from airstrikes targeting militants in Syria.[580] The United States has also acknowledged that its rules to avoid civilian casualties are looser in Syria than those for drone strikes elsewhere.[581]

The SOHR and other activist groups reported that seven civilians were killed when an air strike hit a gas distribution facility near the town of al-Khasham is the eastern Deir al-Zor province on 17 October 2014 and three civilians were killed in an air strike on 16 October 2014 in the north east province of al-Hassakah. According to their reports, most of the civilians killed were fuel tanker drivers.[582]

Destroyed neighborhood in Raqqa in August 2017

According to Reuters, 50 civilians were killed in Syria by US-led airstrikes, from the start of the campaign in late September 2014 to mid-November.[583] On 28 December 2014, a U.S. airstrike in the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab killed more than 50 civilians.[584]

On 21 May 2015, the United States admitted it “probably” killed two children in bombings near Harem on 4 and 5 November 2014. These are the first such admissions of the campaign, and followed a military investigation. A similar investigation regarding an event in Syria is underway, and two regarding events in Iraq.[585] Two adult civilians were also minorly injured in the Harem strikes. The deaths and injuries are attributed by the military investigation to unintentional secondary explosions, after the bombers hit their intended targets, linked to the Khorasan.[586] On 19 July 2016 a coalition led airstrike on the ISIL controlled villages of Tokhar and Hoshariyeh reportedly killed at least 56 civilians, including 11 children.[587] On 3 August 2016, dozens of civilians were killed after an airstrike in al-Qa’im, some sources claiming that 30 were killed.[588]

Airwars, which “maintains an extensive database of all known allegations in which civilians and friendly forces have been reported killed by the Coalition since August 2014”, reports between 503 and 700 civilians were killed by Coalition airstrikes in Syria as of April 2016.[589]

At least 33 people were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on a school near Raqqa in March 2017[590] in what is described as war crime.[citation needed] On 16 March 2017, a U.S. airstrike in rebel-held Aleppo killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 100 after warplanes hit a mosque.[591]

According to a report by Amnesty International, the U.S.-led Coalition has provided falsified data to conceal the actual number of civilian deaths resulting from their bombing campaigns and is “deeply in denial” about civilian casualties in Raqqa. After an investigation by Amnesty International in June 2018, the U.S.-led Coalition confirmed that “coalition air strikes killed 70 civilians, mostly women and children – including 39 members of a single family.”[592]

According to Airwars,[593] the strikes of U.S.-led coalition killed as many as 6,000 civilians in Syria and Iraq in 2017.[594]

On 2 May 2018, Britain’s Ministry of Defense admitted for the first time that a civilian was “unintentionally” killed in an anti-ISIL drone strike on 26 March 2018. According to the MoD, the civilian was on a motorbike and entered the target area at the last minute. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said the incident was “deeply regrettable”.[595][596]

On 25 April 2019 a joint investigation by Amnesty International and Airwars of over 200 strike sites reported that anti-ISIL Coalition bombing during the 2017 Battle of Raqqa had killed 1,600 civilians alone. CJTF-OIR reported the month prior that its 4-year operations over both Iraq and Syria amounted to 1,257 civilian casualties overall. “Coalition forces razed Raqqa…Amnesty International and Airwars call upon the Coalition forces to end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive in Raqqa,” the investigators said in a joint statement. The Coalition responded that they “continue to employ thorough and deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure.”[597]

By October 2019, Airwars estimated 8,214-13,125 civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria due to Coalition airstrikes, including 1,744–2,333 children and 3,609 named victims. The Coalition’s own estimate of civilian deaths was 1,335.[598]

Results

According to CJTF-OIR, by May 2016, ISIL had lost 25 percent of the territory it possessed in Syria since the campaign began, mostly due to advances by YPG/SDF forces with heavy Coalition air support.[599] Overall, by the end of 2016 the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria was estimated by the Pentagon to have struck 32,000 targets (including 164 tanks, 400 Humvees, and 2,638 pieces of oil infrastructure) and killed 50,000 militants, with approximately 1/3 of these losses taking place in Syria.[35][600] By December 2017, the Pentagon increased the estimate to 80,000 ISIL fighters killed by coalition airstrikes between Iraq and Syria.[601]

By 23 March 2019, the day of ISIL’s territorial collapse in Syria, CJTF-OIR and partner forces had liberated nearly 110,000 square kilometers (42,471 square miles) from the Islamic State; as a result, 7.7 million people no longer lived under ISIL’s “caliphate”.[602]

Reactions

Foreign reactions

  • Australia – Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, praised the intervention, saying that an international effort was needed in order to combat the ISIL threat.[215] Despite Abbott’s support for the intervention, the Australian Government said it is not likely to contribute forces to operations in Syria.[603]
  • Canada – Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, said in October 2014 Canada would strike ISIL targets in Syria if the Assad government gave approval.[604] New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called President Obama almost immediately after coming into office to inform him that Canada will be ceasing air operations in coordination with Americans. Trudeau did not give a time frame.[605]
  • Czech Republic – Lubomír Zaorálek, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic supported the intervention against the Islamic State and said that it’s important to keep supporting the ground forces in the battle against ISIS and the Czech Republic will keep providing military support to the Iraqi army and to the Kurdish Peshmerga. He also noted that air strikes won’t defeat Islamic State. The Czech government said that ISIS is enemy not only for safety in the Middle East, but also for security and stability in the Czech Republic and Europe.[606]
  • Ecuador – The Ecuadorian government opposed the airstrikes in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government.[607]
  • Egypt – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi expressed his government’s support for the international campaign against ISIL, and a spokesperson for the Egyptian foreign ministry echoed his statements by reiterating the Egyptian government’s willingness to back the war against ISIL.[608][609]
  • Germany – German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned whether President Obama’s plan was adequate in order to combat ISIL and said Germany had not been asked to participate in airstrikes nor would it participate if asked.[610]
  • Iran – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned ISIL’s actions but also called the airstrikes in Syria “illegal” because they were conducted without the consent of the Syrian government.[611] Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was reported in Iranian media as saying that Iran had warned the United States that Israel would be at risk should the US and its allies seek to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad while fighting ISIL in Syria.[612]
  • Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel fully supported the U.S. government’s calls for united action against ISIL.[610]
  • Japan – A spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Japanese government would continue to closely coordinate with the United States and other countries, along with offering support and cooperation in their strikes against ISIL.[613]
  • Netherlands – Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, showed understanding for the intervention against ISIL in Syria and said that his government was exploring options to contribute in the fight against ISIL.[614]
  • Russia – Alexander Lukashevich, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, opposed the military intervention “without the consent of the legitimate government” and said that “this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law”.[212] On 14 October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov questioned the motives of the intervention, saying “Maybe their stated goal is not entirely sincere? Maybe it is regime change?” He also questioned the effectiveness of the year long campaign “With, as far as I know, 25,000 sorties they [US-led air campaign] could have smashed the entire [country of] Syria into smithereens,” continuing to remark that “positive results ‘on the ground’ are not visible”. He also criticized the continued supply of arms to rebels, saying “I want to be honest, we barely have any doubt that at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists’ hands.” He continued to call for the countries involved to join a coalition made up of Russian, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian and Hezbollah forces against what Russia claims is solely ISIL and al Qaeda, but the US has asserted is primarily non-jihadist opposition forces.[615][616]
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian President Vladimir Putin, described the US air strikes on the Shayrat airbase as “an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext…. a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state”.