Is this Iraq War III? President Barack Obama has ordered airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS forces officially entering America into the civil war in Iraq. The bombing is supposed to stop an ethnic cleaning campaign of the Yazidis by ISIS and protect military advisors that Obama sent into the country a few months ago. Also at stake are US oil contracts in northern Iraq made between the Kurds and US energy companies though that reason for intervention is not being trumpeted.

Obama drew the line for ISIS advancement at Erbil which is a major oil hub with US energy companies Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton and others having interests there.

From Obama’s Statement:

I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it. In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

 To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad. We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Critics have pointed out that Obama consciously threw the advisors into a war zone making their being under threat inevitable, that ethnic cleansing is happening all over the world as well as in neighboring Syria, and that ExxonMobil and friends took on risks making those deals and should therefore take the loss as part of the cost of doing business in a volatile region.

The larger point is also the efficacy of this bombing and humanitarian campaign. The point is clearly to help swing the balance of the conflict in the government in Baghdad’s favor. But can a bombing campaign really do that? What about the territory the Maliki government has already lost? And more to the point, the reason Maliki’s government has collapsed so quickly is his purge of the Sunnis and subsequent distrust. How will that change with these US bombings?

Update: Bombing has begun.