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‘I believe the U.S. cannot turn a blind eye,’ Pres. Obama says of Iraq airstrikes

Obama authorizes airstrikes in Iraq - August 7, 2014

(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday he’d authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel.

“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama said Thursday about Iraq.

“We do whatever is necessary to protect our people. We support our allies when they’re in danger,” U.S. President Barack Obama, said Thursday night, speaking about Iraq and his authorization of limited airstrikes.

The United States has airdropped meals and water in Iraq, sending aid to minority groups trapped as brutal Islamist fighters advance.

“The mission was conducted by a number of U.S. military aircraft under the direction of U.S. Central Command,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “The aircraft that dropped the humanitarian supplies have now safely exited the immediate airspace over the drop area.”

Rapid developments on the ground, where a humanitarian crisis is emerging with minority groups facing possible slaughter by Sunni Muslim extremists, have set the stage for an increasingly dire situation.

Thousands of families from the Yazidi minority are reportedly trapped in the mountains without food, water or medical care after fleeing the rampaging fighters of the Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

Throngs of refugees, many of them Iraqi Christians, are on the run — their largest city now occupied by fighters who gave them an ultimatum, “Convert to Islam or die.”

Defense officials say the airstrikes the President and his national security team are weighing would be primarily to protect American consular staff and military advisers working with the Iraqi military in Irbil, the largest city in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The United States is also concerned that ISIS could make a move against the several dozen U.S. military advisers there, a Pentagon official said.

U.S. officials were tight-lipped about their plans Thursday, but a Pentagon official stressed that any reports that the United States had conducted airstrikes in Iraq were “completely false.”

A potential escalation of U.S. military involvement comes two years after Obama ended the Iraq war and brought home American forces.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that any potential U.S. action in Iraq would be limited, with no chance of ground troops heading back.

He said the principle for taking a military step would be threats to core American interests or U.S. personnel in Iraq.

Refusing to offer details on what options were being considered, Earnest described the current situation in Iraq as “disturbing,” with “innocent populations persecuted just because of their ethnic identity.”

Iraqi forces fight back as Islamists advance

The Iraqi air force bombed a number of targets Thursday night, Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government, told CNN. The strikes killed at least two ISIS emirs, he said.

Talabani also reported that U.S. officials said humanitarian airdrops would take place for the tens of thousands of Yazidis he estimates are stranded without food or water.

The United States has been sharing intelligence through reconnaissance but had not yet been involved in any airstrikes, a senior Iraqi military official told CNN on Thursday.

The ISIS fighters, armed with armored vehicles and other military hardware taken from Iraqi forces in a lightning sweep through the north earlier this year, have overrun Iraq’s largest Christian town and nearby villages.

When radical Islamist fighters stormed the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar over the weekend, the Yazidi minority who call it home fled into the surrounding mountains in fear of their lives.

Now, trapped without food, water or medical care in the summer heat, thousands are in desperate need of help. It’s already too late to save dozens of children who’ve died of thirst.

Other groups targeted by ISIS, which seeks to establish a Sunni caliphate stretching from Syria to Baghdad, include Shiite Muslim, Turkmen and Shabak — all religious minorities.

Fleeing people, some in cars and trucks and others on foot, got out with whatever possessions. The United Nations estimates 200,000 people heading toward Kurdistan in the past 48 hours.

After an emergency meeting on the situation Thursday, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning the Islamists’ attacks.

“The members of the Security Council reiterate that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, political grounds, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable,” the statement said

The council called on the international community to support Iraq “and to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population affected by the current conflict.”

Kurdish region

Outside Irbil, the internal refugees were sleeping in parking lots or shells of buildings under construction with little access to water or any other services, CNN’s Ivan Watson reported.

Kurdish officials call for U.S. or NATO airstrikes to help them fight the ISIS forces.

They also issued statements intended to boost morale of the Kurdish people, saying the Kurdish Pershmerga fighters would be able to hold off any serious threat to Erbil and other cities.

A senior State Department official said the United States also was weighing opening a humanitarian corridor to provide support to Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

Earnest, however, said while the United States would support Iraqi and Kurdish efforts, “we can’t solve these problems for them. These problems can only be solved with Iraqi political solutions.”

The United States has 245 military personnel in Iraq, 90 of whom are advisers. The carrier USS George H.W. Bush and other Navy ships also are in the region.

Sinjar unrest

Yazidis, among Iraq’s smallest minorities, are of Kurdish descent, and their religion is considered a pre-Islamic sect that draws from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Most of the 500,000 or so members live in and around Sinjar in northwestern Nineveh province, bordering Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said Tuesday that official reports indicated 40 children from the Yazidi minority had died “as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration” since the weekend.

“Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25,000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid including drinking water and sanitation services,” it said.

CNN’s Tom Cohen, Ivan Watson, Dana Ford, Elise Labott, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jim Acosta and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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14 comments

  • manalishi

    Ok so where are the chumps Robbie/David/d-bags that brag about the fine job Bath house Barry Soertoro has done with Iraq? “he got us out of war” was one quote.
    Obama in 2011: ‘We’re Leaving Behind A Stable And Self-Reliant Iraq’

    Only the dumbest, tarded, or sleaziest people on earth could have possibly voted for this s**t.

    • Robbie

      You are a sad, pathetic little girl! I can’t imagine the pain you go through every day knowing just how insignificant you are. Even though you try to fit in you are just a pitiful waste of flesh. I’m going to ignore you from this point on Manilishi. You just aren’t worth wasting time on.

      • manalishi

        You should ignore me, Your love fest with Barry Soertoro has made you look silly,,,again. Which one of you plays the woman role?

      • Mo Fiscal conservatism

        Robbie, “manalishi” actually pointed out specific quotes and examples. All you did was insult her. What are you, in high school or something? Go play, let the grownups talk.

  • Robbie

    A great speech from a great leader. Even Faux news couldn’t find anyone to say a bad thing about it. No war, no American soldiers in harms way yet he will protect the US support staff and citizens still there. The president made it clear that he is aware the vast majority of US citizens do not want to get involved in other countries problems anymore. As far as the humanitarian aid airdropped to the starving goes…even Faux news couldn’t fault him for that either. Again, great speech from a great leader.

    • Erika

      Robbie you are right. Ignore Manalishi stupid a$$. Let him, Clayton and Tom racist a$$ go over there & fight. They aren’t worth shyt over here!!!! They’re just in the phucking way.

    • manalishi

      ” No war,” BWAAAA!!! I guess you should have told that to the Taliban, Isis, and Al qeada. They didn’t get the memo. Now your plastic bobblehead messiah (and yourself) are flip floppin like a fish.

  • Pamela

    Yes, they all know that PRESIDENT OBAMA is the BEST PRESIDENT we had in a very long time!!!! Bush is long gone, thank GOD. You need to get over it. He is the president & it is what is is…… get over it you stupid republican a×× hole!!!!

    • Mo Fiscal conservatism

      I think Pam over here must be voting based on who is the “coolest” candidate. Obama has been found in many polls (not just Fox News) to be the worst president we’ve had in recent memory. Once we take everything back in November and restore order, you all will thank us, like a good girl.

  • L

    Manalishi, you are a real bytch @$$ republican. You need to stop jumping on George W dyck you punk @$$ bytch!!!!

  • shanquel

    robbie is a racist piece of trash.he like obama simply because he is black and voted for him for that reason only,well that and his free housing,cell phone,food stamps,childcare,etc.now get off that public library pc so some kid can use it you low life scum bag

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