After President Obama authorized limited air strikes in Iraq on Thursday evening, American warplanes today bombed artillery equipment being used by the extremist group ISIS to shell the Kurdish capital of Erbil.
Most Americans had never heard of ISIS until June, when the cash-rich Sunni jihadist group suddenly seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, sending tens of thousands of Iraqi government soldiers fleeing, and raising the threat of full-blown civil war in the fragile Mideast nation.
Where did ISIS come from? As The Week's Frances Weaver wrote last month:
ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni Islamist outfit that fought U.S. and Iraqi troops during the early years of the Iraq War. When the group was routed by Sunni moderates in 2008, its fighters reinvented themselves as ISIS and regrouped in neighboring Syria, where they seized territory during the chaotic uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011 left another security vacuum, one ISIS has been able to exploit over the past year with the unintentional help of Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Following the U.S. departure, the Iraqi leader purged the government and security forces of Sunnis — who make up just over a third of the country's 33 million people. Alienated and angry, many Sunnis have supported ISIS in its fight against the Shiite-dominated central government. Maliki, says Michael Knights at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "played right into [ISIS's] hands." [The Week]
During Saturday night's Republican debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he doesn't criticize President Obama's recent visit to a mosque, but believes he "continues to put out this fiction that there's widespread, systematic discrimination against Muslim Americans."
Rubio said he recognizes and honors Muslims who have fought in the military, but "by the same token, we face a very significant threat of homegrown violent extremism." He said Muslims need to report mosques that are "inciting violence against us," then said he knows a group that is actually suffering from discrimination: "We are facing in this country Christian groups and groups that hold traditional values who feel, and in fact are, being discriminated against by the laws of this country that try to force them to violate their conscious."
Rubio made his comments as he stood next to rival Donald Trump, who last year called for a ban on letting Muslims enter the United States. Trump didn't respond to Rubio's remarks, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did, saying he has long worked with Muslim American groups across New Jersey and knows they are "good, law abiding, hard working people. What they need is our cooperation and our understanding. They don't need broadsides against them because of the religious faith they practice." Catherine Garcia
At Saturday night's GOP debate, Ted Cruz opened up about his personal connection to the heroin epidemic in a moving moment that left the room quiet. In response to the moderators' question about how New Hampshire residents could know he stood with them on this key issue for the state, Cruz told the story of his half-sister's struggle with drug addiction and her death from a drug overdose.
"This is an absolute epidemic. We need leadership to solve it," Cruz said. "Solving it has to occur at the state and local level." He also promised a focus on securing the borders to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S.
Watch his full answer below. Becca Stanek
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 7, 2016
On the topic of waterboarding, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told the audience at Saturday's presidential debate it's not torture but "enhanced interrogation." For his part, Donald Trump said he'd come up with a technique that would put it to shame.
Because there are people "in the Middle East" who are "chopping the head off Christians," he would not only "bring back waterboarding," but he'd "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." Cruz declared that waterboarding "does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture," but he would not bring it "back in any sort of widespread use."
Jeb Bush said waterboarding was "used sparingly," but Congress has changed the laws and now, "I think where we stand is the appropriate place." Rubio warned that the candidates shouldn't talk about specific tactics, but did say he believed "we should be putting people into Guantanamo, not emptying it out." Catherine Garcia
When asked during the ABC News Republican presidential debate what he would say to the 68 percent of Americans in favor of raising taxes on people making more than a million dollars, Jeb Bush came out in favor of the wealthy.
"I'd like to see more millionaires," he said. "I think we need to grow more millionaires." Bush continued: "We need to create a prosperity society where people can rise up. This notion that we're somehow undertaxed as a nation is just foolhardy when we have entitlements growing far faster than our ability to pay for it." Catherine Garcia
— ABC News (@ABC) February 7, 2016
Jeb Bush and Donald Trump got into a heated argument about eminent domain at Saturday's Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bush started it by calling Trump out on the difference between the government taking private property for "public purpose" and for "private purpose." "What Donald Trump did was try to take the property of an elderly woman in Atlantic City to turn it into a limousine parking lot for his casino," Bush said.
Trump then tried to shush Bush, eliciting boos from the audience. "That's all of his donors and special interests out there," Trump said of the boos.
In Trump's opinion, eminent domain is an "absolute necessity for a country." "Without it, you wouldn't have roads...you wouldn't have bridges," Trump says. "The Keystone Pipeline without eminent domain, it wouldn't go 10 feet," he added. Becca Stanek
Shortly after news surfaced Saturday night that North Korea launched a long-range rocket, Jeb Bush said he would not be opposed to launching a military strike against North Korea. "If a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it," Bush said with emphasis at Saturday night's GOP debate. In a campaign that once saw the 2016 candidate try to distance himself from his family legacy, Bush seemed to almost welcome the comparison to his brother's preemptive strike in Iraq.
North Korea defied international warnings by launching a rocket that the United Nations and others believe is a cover for a test of a ballistic missile that could reach the United States mainland. Becca Stanek
Donald Trump said if elected, he'll repeal ObamaCare and replace it with "something so much better."
Trump was asked during the ABC News Republican presidential debate if his vision for health care was closer to Sen. Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, and he responded by saying he was "closer to common sense." Trump said the other Republican candidates are being taken care of by "insurance people," but he's not, and he's tired of companies "getting rich on ObamaCare, rich on health care, health services. We're going to end that."
His plan, he said, is to "take out the artificial boundaries" and have "people compete, free enterprise." Health care savings plans are "excellent," he added, and he's going to make sure that everyone is covered. "A certain number of people will be on the street dying; as a Republican, I don't want that to happen," he said. "We're going to help people on the street." Catherine Garcia