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Friday, October 28, 2016

Arbil (Iraq) (AFP) – President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. warplanes back into Iraqi skies to stop jihadists from moving into autonomous Kurdistan and carrying out a potential genocide against displaced minorities.

The U.S. air armada’s first mission was to drop food and water to thousands of people who have been hiding from the Sunni extremist militants in a barren northern mountain range.

Three years after he ended eight years of U.S. occupation, U.S. President Barack Obama announced late Thursday he had authorized limited air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Many people who have been cowering in the Sinjar mountains for five days in searing heat and with no supplies are Yazidis, a minority that follows a 4,000-year-old faith.

Obama accused the IS, which calls Yazidis “devil-worshippers”, of attempting “the systematic destruction of the entire people, which would constitute genocide”.

He also justified possible air strikes because of the jihadist threat to Washington’s Kurdish allies, following a lightning advance that saw the Sunni extremists move within striking distance of Arbil.

Panic had begun to grip the Kurdish capital after IS thrust into the Nineveh plains separating their main hub of Mosul and the autonomous territory over the past two days.

“We plan to stand vigilant and take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq, including the consulate in Arbil and embassy in Baghdad,” Obama said.

Senior U.S. officials, however, denied a Kurdish claim that U.S. warplanes had already struck jihadist targets.

The Kurdish peshmerga, short of ammunition and stretched thin along a huge front, have been forced to retreat in the face of brazen assaults by the jihadists.

Their withdrawal from Iraq’s Christian heartland on Wednesday and Thursday sparked a mass exodus and spurred Western powers into taking urgent measures.

Obama’s announcement came after an emergency UN Security Council meeting called by France, which also offered to support forces battling the jihadists.

Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako said Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh was emptied of its population on Thursday and estimated the number of Christians forced from their homes at 100,000.

Most tried to enter neighboring Kurdistan, piling further pressure on the autonomous territory of five million people which has already allowed in hundreds of thousands of people since IS began its offensive on June 9.

Yazidis and other minorities who fled Sinjar nearly a week ago have also been pouring into Kurdistan.

A senior U.S. defense official confirmed a mission had started to save those who were still stranded in the mountain by dropping “critical meals and water”.

Another official said American planes could drop more aid and Obama said he authorized “targeted air strikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege”.

One trapped Sinjari reached by phone on Friday said none of the aid yet reached him and his family, sheltering in an old cave dwelling.

“Nothing has landed in this part of the mountain. We need all kinds of aid, food and water. There are many children here,” he said.

Obama was at pains to assure war-weary Americans that he — the president who withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq — was not about to get “dragged into fighting another war”.

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham accused Obama of not going far enough, however.

“We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one. A policy of containment will not work against ISIS (IS),” they said in a statement.

Obama came to office determined to end U.S. military involvement in Iraq, and in his first term oversaw the withdrawal of the huge ground force deployed there since the 2003 American invasion.

But the capture of huge swathes of land by jihadists, who in late June proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, has brought a country already rife with sectarian tension closer to collapse.

The separatist Kurds and the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad have shown limited willingness to cooperate against what top world leaders have called an “existential threat”.

IS has enjoyed a spectacular run of military successes in Iraq, but the group also scored a key victory in Syria, with the capture overnight of a key army base in Raqa province.

Observers say one of the main obstacles to coordinated action by all of IS’s Iraqi foes is Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, accused by many of having institutionalised sectarianism in recent years.

The United States, the Shiite religious leadership, powerful neighbor Iran and even much of his own party have all pulled their support but Maliki has dug his heels in.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • charleo1

    As bad as the politics are, risking getting involved in a sectarian conflict.
    Launching yet another military action anywhere. I believe acting to end the reign of terror of this band of Islamic Fascist, and their plans of wholesale slaughter, and genocide, is what we must somehow do. What we and the World, must somehow arrange. The reason we went into Afghanistan, irrespective of how poorly the war has been prosecuted, I believe was a sound one. So terrorist groups, namely Al Qaeda, could not gain a foothold, and threaten us, our allies, and it’s neighbors. And become a destabilizing influence in the region. And that directive has been a consistent with both
    Administrations. Not only in Afghanistan, but other lawless backwaters
    throughout the region. Yeoman, Somalia, the Swat Valley in Pakistan,
    One pundit opined that, “Obama knows,” as soon as the first bomb drops,
    we’re all in. And we should use caution, so as to not be drawn into a wider war. But, given who we, and our allies are dealing with here. The fact the
    Iraqi military, in which we have invested billions, is not able to secure the
    Country. I don’t see as we can afford to stand idle, and let this horror happen.

  • Ford Truck

    I hate to see the U.S. get involved in another war, but reality is going to require it. Time has come for the U.S. and allies to wipe these vermin off the face of the earth. Iran is clearly arming them, so Iran must face punishment too. If we don’t hit Iran NOW, we will face a nuclear armed Iran and Iran will give nuclear weapons to ISIS and Al Qaeda, maybe even Hamas.

    I’m not saying this to defend Israel, I don’t really care about Israel and their nation that was stolen from the previous occupants, and continues to try to steal more and more territory. Nor do I have anything special allegiance to the or Christians, EXCEPT that they are not trying to kill everyone that does not bow to them and their fake gods.

    Religion is not the direct issue here, except that Islam IS A RELIGION OF VIOLENCE. If it was a Christian Army, a Nazi army, or someone else trying to take over the world, the issue would be the same.

    It is time we eradicate that part of any group that seeks to take over the world for their own totalitarian beliefs. ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all other Islamic terror groups, need to go. No mercy, no quarter, take no prisoners, just kill them all and anyone that gets in the way or tries to help them!!