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An EA-68 coming from Iraq lands on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush Aug. 10. / Hasan Jamali, AP

BAGHDAD ?? American airstrikes pounded Islamic State targets in northern Iraq on Wednesday as the Iraqi government urged U.S. forces to expand their bombings to other areas controlled by extremists.

The Pentagon conducted 14 strikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, where Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish forces consolidated their hold after seizing it from Islamic State militants. The U.S. military has launched 84 strikes in Iraq since Aug. 8, most of them around the Mosul Dam.

Iraq's government urged U.S. forces to shift airstrikes to targets around the Haditha Dam, a facility in western Iraq that has been under attack by militants. "We are looking for this," said Brig. Gen. Saad Maa'n Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

The Pentagon, which has said it is limiting action to providing humanitarian assistance and protecting Americans in Iraq, is weighing new military options short of sending in combat troops. It has avoided general strikes aimed at weakening the Islamic State's hold on large portions of Iraq.

The airstrikes continued as U.S. and Iraqi officials pressed tribal sheiks and other Sunni leaders to turn on the Islamic State militants, who have taken over towns and cities.

The strategy echoes a U.S.-backed tribal revolt that turned the tide against al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that if Sunni tribes want support from the Shiite-dominated national government, they need to rise up against the militants, who are Sunnis but hold more extreme views of Islam than the tribes do.

Some tribes are already battling Islamic State forces, but others are on the fence or support the militants, according to Iraq's government. Zebari said he has warned Sunni leaders that "you will not get anything (from the government) unless you stand up against (the militants)."

Tony Deane, a retired Army colonel who served in Anbar province during the tribal uprising against al-Qaeda in 2006-07, said U.S. military intervention can halt the advance of the militants, "but it will take the tribes to defeat" the Islamic State.

Analysts say convincing the tribes will be more difficult than last time, when their uprising, called the Awakening, was nurtured by U.S. Marines and soldiers.

"The tribes viewed U.S. forces as a large, heavily armed, relatively neutral tribe with whom they could ally and do business," said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army officer who served in Iraq as a brigade commander. Without a large American presence to play intermediary, the Iraqi government has to negotiate with the tribes, "which for good reason are distrustful of Baghdad," he said.

It is not clear what role, if any, the United States could have in rallying the tribes.

In 2006, the tribal uprising started partly because Sunnis grew tired of al-Qaeda's barbarity and the way militants elbowed in on businesses run by sheiks. Al-Qaeda militants forced women into marriage, killed teenagers and imposed a strict form of Islamic law that the tribes weren't accustomed to.

The Islamic State has been even more brutal than al-Qaeda. Its fighters slaughtered a religious minority in Sinjar, a town in northern Iraq, for not converting to Islam. They have driven Christians out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and been accused of rape and indiscriminate slaughter, acts which they regularly videotape to spread terror and intimidate foes.

Their latest atrocity: Wednesday's video of an Islamic State militant beheading American photojournalist James Foley.

Zebari said resentment toward the militants is starting to grow among tribal leaders. "This is building up but hasn't reached a tipping point yet," he said.

The sheiks, many of whom run businesses, are particularly sensitive when militants horn in on their livelihood, said Ibrahim, the Interior Ministry spokesman. Fighting in Anbar province has crippled trade on the road between Jordan and Baghdad, which runs through the province.

It is hitting the sheiks in their wallets, Ibraham said.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: U.S. pounds militants as Iraq seeks expanded strikes

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