News / Europe

US Airstrikes Hit Militants' Vehicles Near Sinjar, Iraq

EU Approves Arming of Kurds; US Says Air Strikes Will Continuei
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Henry Ridgwell
August 15, 2014 8:50 PM
European Union Foreign Ministers have approved sending arms to Kurdish Peshmerga forces who are battling extremist Islamic State militants in northern Iraq. The United States says its air strikes against Islamic State positions have relieved the humanitarian emergency facing ethnic minorities sheltering on Sinjar mountain. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, however, the West is determined not to get sucked in to another conflict in Iraq.
EU Approves Arming of Kurds; US Says Air Strikes Will Continue
Henry Ridgwell

U.S. military officials say drone strikes against Islamic State insurgents have destroyed two armed vehicles south of the Iraqi town of Sinjar.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement Friday the strike was ordered after it had received reports from Kurdish forces that Islamic State terrorists were attacking civilians in the village of Kawju, located south of the village of Sinjar.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers on Friday approved sending weapons to Iraq’s embattled Kurds, as Kurdish forces, bolstered by U.S. air strikes, struggle to push back against advancing Islamic State militants.  

U.S. airstrikes and aid drops by the U.S., Britain and others have eased fears of a humanitarian emergency among some ethnic groups who have sought refuge from Islamic militants on Mt. Sinjar in northern Iraq.

Aid agencies have begun scaling up humanitarian operations in response to a recent U.N. declaration that the flood of refugees displaced by the militant onslaught has reached crisis proportions.  Officials estimate around 1.2 million people have fled their homes this year.

As France moved to send weaponry to Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga and Britain joined the U.S. in dropping aid to Yazidi refugees, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels gave unanimous approval for individual EU states to send weapons to peshmerga forces.

“The conclusions of the [European] Council today will show the commitment of European countries to pushing back against the threat of [the Islamic State], a threat to civilization, a threat to the region, and a threat to us here in Europe,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

US-led Airstrikes

To date, only the United States has conducted direct military attacks on militants from the Islamic State, which used to be known as either the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  

U.S. Central Command said Thursday U.S. fighter jets and drones attacked and destroyed two heavily armed vehicles operated by militants who had been firing on Kurdish forces in the north.  Authorities said one of the airstrikes targeted an armored truck thought to have been supplied by U.S. forces to the Iraqi military and later captured by militants.

Washington has said air strikes had saved tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians under threat. Washington has also sent 130 military advisers to Iraq assess the security situation.

"We will continue air strikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq. We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines,” President Barack Obama said Thursday.

Also Friday, the U.N. Security Council sought to cut off funding and the flow of fighters to terrorist groups operating in Iraq and Syria.  Iraq's ambassador also appealed to the United States to step up its targeted airstrikes of militants in his country.

The 15-nation council voted unanimously to sanction individuals, groups and entities that support Islamic State (IS), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and other al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist groups that are seizing territory in Iraq and Syria and killing and terrorizing civilians.

Several British lawmakers and some senior military commanders have called for Britain to join the U.S. military strikes. But some analysts argue that Kurdish and Iraqi forces should lead the fight, according to Afzal Ashraf of the Royal United Services Institute in London.

"There will be some intelligence sharing, there may even be some operational support for the peshmerga and possibly the Iraqi forces to counter [the Islamic State],” Ashfar said. “But there is no ownership of a mission to defeat the IS, which I think is sensible.”

Political Solutions, Not Military

The Islamic State insurgency poses an existential threat to Iraq; but the ultimate solution lies in Baghdad rather than on the battlefield, he said.

"The U.S. and the U.K. have learnt a very valuable lesson in the last decade or so. And that is that there is no point in applying a military solution where the problem is fundamentally political," he said.

The Islamic State threat has been worsened by the growing alienation many Sunnis, and Kurds, have felt from the eight-year Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. After weeks of growing political turmoil, and fears of a potential coup by his backers, al-Maliki this week agreed to step down and be replaced by another Shiite politician, Haider al-Abadi.

Maliki and Abadi both went into exile when Saddam Hussein was in power, and returned to Iraq when U.S.-led forces toppled the dictator in 2003. While Maliki stayed mostly in Iran, Abadi spent his time in Britain, which gives him an advantage in dealing with Western leaders, said Douglas Ollivant, an analyst with the New America Foundation in Washington.

"He's been much more exposed to the West. He speaks English, has a doctorate from a British university ... in electrical engineering,” Ollivant said. Maliki is, “if nothing else, a much better face for Iraq moving forward, someone who can interact with the United States and other Western powers..."

Abadi’s Difficulties

Despite international backing and powerful support within Iraq, Abadi may find it difficult to reverse the momentum of the Islamic State. The militants draw heavily on support from disgruntled senior Iraqi officials, including Sunni Muslims who worked in the past with Saddam Hussein's army and intelligence apparatus, said Derek Harvey, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is now a political analyst.

Sectarian divisions run deep in Iraq's government, and it will take extensive action by the United States and the international community to keep Baghdad on track toward reform, he said.

"You might replace the head, but throughout the ministries, the intelligence services, the senior levels of military leadership, they are well arranged. They are well entrenched, with an attitude that is generally sectarian,” Harvey said.

The Islamic State was a much more coherent fighting force than most of its predecessors, he said.  

“I think everyone recognizes today that … this is not a terrorist organization, it is a terrorist army. It is a state. It is well organized. It is well led. It has good resources. It has excellent cadres. It has a good social media [presence] and political and ideological framework that it's addressing and promoting in the region,” he said.

United Nations aid agencies have scrambled to help some 80,000 people from the minority Yazidi religious group and other religious minorities who fled to Syria earlier this month to escape Islamist rebels. The Yazidis have subsequently crossed back into Iraq, entering the Dohuk governorate of Kurdistan.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Dan McNorton said refugees have arrived at aid stations dehydrate d and exhausted after having been forced to walk in searing heat.

In addition to caring for the 80,000 Iraqi refugees in Dohuk, the U.N. refugee agency and its partners also are assisting some 15,000 Yazidis who remain in Syria. The World Health Organization and the international Red Cross has also provided trucks with medicine for thousands of refugees.

“We are trying to scale up our operations because there are several crises in Iraq now with the Syrian refugees in Kurdistan and in Anbar province," WHO spokesman Tariq Jasarevic said.

VOA’s Sharon Behn, Lisa Bryant, Margaret Basheer and Lisa Schlein contributed to this report.

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by: Bobette from: USA
August 17, 2014 5:00 PM
Oh, wow, we hit TWO "armed" vehicles. Seriously? This place is a huge desert; it's not like it's the middle of a big city. Why are we no carpet bombing these SOBs? You cannot make peace with people who want you DEAD. And their radical way far out there idea of Islam is crazy. They are beheading men, women, and children, they are kidnapping women and children for sex slaves and to traffic them, they are crucifying, literally, Christians and any other minority. We have the capability to bomb them back to where they want to be (in the Stone Age); so why won't Obama pull the trigger? Because he's worried about hisself, as usual, his "legacy"; his promise to pull out of Iraq. This self-centered, narciccistic individual has these people's blood on his hands. And where are the Europeans? Australia? Britain? Anyone with half a brain can look on YouTube and see what's going on over there, you don't need any damned studies or meetings. This is kill or be killed. Period.

by: David Kent from: Florida, USA
August 15, 2014 11:48 PM
I believe strongly that it is incumbent upon the USA to retrieve the weapons that we gave to the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army carelessly let ISIL obtain the weapon's and it is our government's duty to make sure that they are not used to harm the citizens or soldiers of America or our allies. It seems to me that whenever we arm a group, there is a good chance that the arms will come back to bite us on the backside. It happened when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and again in the current situation with IS.

That being said, I do believe arming the Kurds is a good idea. I believe our ally Turkey considers them a terrorist group, but I think Turkey is exaggerating. To my knowledge, they have never intentionally attacked any civilians.

In conclusion, we need to arm the Kurds and somehow retrieve our weapons from the IS.

by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
August 15, 2014 11:37 PM
Time to send in the drones and manned aircraft until ISIS gives up their practice of attacking their neighbor Iraqis. This is one instance in which they need to be bombed into civilized behavior. Its either live in peace or experience "death from above".
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 16, 2014 11:05 AM
Hey Tom;.. The US made a few simple airdrops of food and water to some Yazidis trapped on a mountain with other countries, and US killer drone bombs destroyed (2) disabled armored vehicles on a road, near where the (ISIL) Sunni Muslim army was attacking the Kurds...... (and then), the US got a billion dollars of worldwide propaganda news coverage from (VOA) and other western news media outlets.... like they really did something?

by: Eric from: Singapore
August 15, 2014 11:22 PM
Is US really retarded? They know Saudi Arabia is one who behind all these terrorism. It is because Saudi is a big buyer of arms & military equipment and big seller of crude oil for US?

by: Ali baba from: new york
August 15, 2014 7:23 PM
Great ,the team work will have positive result. ISIS should understand that the world will not tolerate its barbaric approach. ISIS ,your days is number. the World Will crushed all radical Islam. Radical Islam has gone too far. In Syria , they raped women . They crucified Christian. They burnt churches. people are living in fear because ISIS. They do it again In Iraq. Since Saudi is playing double stand by giving them money and they go in another way and Donate 100 million to fight terrorism. What a joke, this is, the second time. The first time ,after world trade center tragedy .they send a donation of 10 million to New York city and It was rejected. the state sectary Kerry went Saudi Arabia .He was seeking political solution to the crisis and he was not successful. THE west will accomplish the goal for justice regarding Saudi Arabia and fanatic
In Response

by: david from: cali
August 16, 2014 1:12 AM
Yes I agree but..... saying its political and not military while there using tanks rockets and invading killing ppl in barbarick ways is odd to me. Talk is cheap and even worthless while ppl are dying! Think about this.... tell the ppl that will die tomorrow were just waiting to see what happens!!!!!!

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