Israel may be attacking positions held by the terrorist Islamic State, or ISIS, militia. That is one possible conclusion after Kurdish sources reported Thursday that airstrikes had begun in northern Iraq, together with airlifts to help stranded civilians, while the U.S. denied any involvement. Israel has a long-standing, if largely covert, relationship with the Kurds of northern Iraq and recently gave official support to Kurdish independence.
It is quite possible that the Kurdish reports of airstrikes are untrue, or that U.S. denials are untrue, although the Obama administration signaled that it is considering military options in norther Iraq, however reluctantly. Yet it is equally likely that Israel has taken the initiative to defend the Kurds, not only because of the humanitarian crisis but to shore up a key strategic ally against both Iran and to Sunni terror armies–and perhaps a launch point for a pre-emptive strike against Tehran’s nuclear program.
In addition, Israel has a record of intervening on behalf of beleaguered minorities in the region. Israel’s entry into the Lebanon War in 1982, for example, was partially justified by the desire to protect embattled Christians. In Iraq today, Christians are being driven out of cities where they have lived for centuries, while the Yazidis–an even older group–are being starved, forcibly converted, sold into slavery, kidnapped or simply executed.
There was no indication from Israeli news sources of any military involvement in Iraq. Attention, for the moment, is fixated on the impending expiration of the 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas. However, Israel can certainly fight on two fronts at once, and has been operating over neighboring airspace more and more freely as the Syrian civil war has preoccupied that country’s once formidable Soviet-supplied air defense systems.