U.S. President Barack Obama says he will make a speech on September 10 outlining his strategy to go on the offensive against Islamic State militants.
The announcement came hours after the United States expanded its air strikes against the militants into Iraq’s Sunni heartland, bombing the Islamist fighters who have been besieging Iraqi government forces at the strategic Haditha dam in Anbar Province.
Meanwhile, the Arab League has vowed to take "all necessary measures" against Islamic State militants.
At a meeting in Cairo on September 7, Arab League foreign ministers endorsed a resolution passed by the UN Security Coucil last month, which urged member states to "act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing, and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria."
On the ground inside Iraq, Iraqi government troops and allied militia fighters launched a counteroffensive near Haditha, seizing the town of Barwana from militants about 10 kilometers south of the dam.
The governor of Anbar Province, Ahed al-Dulaimi, was seriously wounded by mortar shrapnel that struck his head when he visited Barwana shortly after it was retaken.
Dulaimi said in August that he was the Iraqi official who asked for and secured U.S. support in the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar Province.
In Tbilisi, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on September 7 that the U.S. air strikes near Haditha had been requested by the Iraqi government.
Hagel called the Haditha Dam "a critically important facility for Iraq."
"If the dam should fall into the hands of the Islamic State or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that that would cause would be very significant," Hagel said.
He said the capture of the dam by the militants would have created "a big risk, including against U.S. interests in Iraq."
Hagel also said that the expanded U.S. air campaign "complies with, and corresponds to, and follows" Obama’s "guidance on how, where, and when" the United States will assist Iraqi security forces.
Previous U.S. air strikes against Islamic State militants focused on targets in northern Iraq, where the Sunni-led fighters seized large swaths of territory in recent months, executed hundreds from non-Sunni religious minorities, and threatened areas controlled by Iraq’s Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
The Iraqi security chief at the town of Haditha, Abdel-Hakim al-Jegheifi, said the U.S. air strikes killed "dozens" of militants and left many wounded.
Jegheifi also announced that a "major military operation, backed by local tribesmen, has begun" in the area.
The Haditha Dam is on the Euphrates River to the west of Ramadi and Fallujah.
The 9-kilometer-long earth structure includes one of Iraq’s largest hydroelectric power plants.
It also forms a large artificial lake -- Lake Qadisiya -- which is used to irrigate farm plots that produce a substantial amount of food.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP