News / Middle East

Obama Authorizes Iraq Air Strikes

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq inside the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, August 7, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq inside the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, August 7, 2014.
Luis Ramirez

President Barack Obama says America “is coming to help” thousands of Iraqis who are trapped and threatened by Islamist militants, and has authorized air strikes and humanitarian flights over northern Iraq.

Obama spoke hours after U.S. military aircraft dropped relief supplies to help thousands of Iraqis stranded on Iraq's Mount Sinjar without food or water and surrounded by militants who are threatening to kill them. (Read the president's full statement here)

“Today, America is coming to help,” said Obama.

The Iraqis are largely Christians or Yazidis, members of an ancient sect who the militants have been threatening to kill if they do not convert to Islam. Thousands have fled their homes as militants with the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sweep through northern Iraq, conducting a campaign of terror against non-Sunnis that has included abducting women and girls and conducting mass executions.

In an address late Thursday, the president announced he ordered the U.S. military to step in. 

“We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide. That's what we're doing on that mountain. I've therefore targeted air strikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there,” said Obama.

Wake-up call

Secretary of State John Kerry also made the case for air strikes, saying ISIL's "grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide."

"For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it. ISIL is not fighting on behalf of Sunnis. ISIL is not fighting for a stronger Iraq. ISIL is fighting to divide and destroy Iraq – and ISIL is offering nothing to anyone except chaos, nihilism, and ruthless thuggery," said Kerry.

Facing public pressure to avoid new involvement in foreign conflicts, the president pledged to not send American troops back into combat in Iraq. U.S. officials say these operations will be of a limited scope and will not involve American ground forces.

What prompted decision

Obama said this is a case where the United States should help.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. When we have a mandate to help, in this case a request from the Iraqi government, and 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.

President Obama authorized air strikes against ISIL convoys if they move toward the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, where U.S. has a consulate and has posted military advisors.

The president said he authorized strikes anywhere else in Iraq where the militants threaten American personnel and facilities. 


It is unclear whether airstrikes alone can prevent the advance of the militants. Andreas Krieg, an expert on Middle East transnational groups and a lecturer at King's College London, tells VOA he is skeptical of the strategy.

"This is a non-linear lineup - their frontline. It's very difficult," Krieg noted. " All you can do is strike a vehicle, pickup trucks and so on, but if they disperse and they start running around as individuals, there's very little you can do with hellfire missiles."

Krieg also questions whether the worsening humanitarian crisis can be addressed without involving ground troops.

"There is no way you can protect civilians on the ground with airpower only," he said. "If you don't put boots on the ground, there's nothing you can do to protect civilians that are under threat."

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Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
August 08, 2014 11:49 AM
Hey Kerry;... The "Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi told the whole world, he is establishing the "Caliphate of all Islam".... and promised he'd lead his (ISIL) army to conquer areas of Syria, Bagdad and Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, (or), maybe Kerry didn't understand what al-Baghdadi said?..... MAYBE Kerry gets his information from bathroom walls, because he hasn't got a clue on what's going on?

CRAZY isn't it?... Kerry now has to rush to every country the US politically interfered in, to try and stop the chaos, violence, destruction, killings and wars that keep going on, (because), of the US political interference.... IF ONLY the US had minded it's own business?....... REALLY

PS;... The US armed and trained the Sunni Muslims in Jordan and Turkey, to wage war on the Shia Muslim led government of Syria, (and then), those same US armed and trained Sunni Muslims, ended up joining the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi army to form the "Caliphate of all Islam"..... (thanks to the US arming and training them)...... REALLY

by: Terry from: usa
August 08, 2014 11:17 AM
The USA , via the CIA, and Qatar, SAUDIA ARABIA, Turkey, and Kuwait FUND ISIS......WAKE UP YOU MORONS!!!!!

by: Javid
August 08, 2014 9:37 AM
I think only US. aircraft attack on ISIS is enough to defeat this terrorist group, because the Kurdish Pishmargeh (militias) as ground troops can do the rest.

by: meanbill from: USA
August 08, 2014 9:20 AM
IN REALITY, if the US had delivered the US fighter planes and Apache attack helicopters that Iraq bought from the US in 2012, the Iraqi's could have prevent the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Caliphate army from making such big gains in Iraq.....

PS;.... The US trained Sunni Muslims in the Iraq army, took the US military equipment and joined the (ISIL) army, (and still), half the Iraq army now, is Sunni Muslims, that can't be trusted to fight, (or), might even shoot the Shia Muslim Iraqi troops in the back.... US TRAINED Sunni Muslims?

by: Jerry Frey from: USA
August 08, 2014 7:54 AM
Last January, President Obama dismissed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a mere junior varsity terrorist outfit compared to al Qaeda. “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate,” he told The New Yorker , “is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”

by: Morrison from: NJ
August 08, 2014 7:33 AM
hey ISIL are just like Hamas... if we try to kill them they will seek cover among civilians... they will gladly show pictures of dead children and claim that we killed them... its despicable i know... but true. We criticized Israel but can we do better in Iraq?? I simply don't think so !! I spent 7 years in the Air National Guard NJ, and I can testify to you that Israel's military precision is of legendary dimension - i simply do not believe we can do better.
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
August 08, 2014 9:02 AM
The ISIL has demonstrated beyond any doubt that they are capable to kill and acted savagely .People have to put their hand together to get rid of them. they are radical form of Islam. If they are stayed among civilian and any air strike could leave behind children killed in attack. It is tough decision.

If people are not acted , this fanatic will continue kill Christian then Yazdi. then they will continue kill Shia. The Arab media which they are Sunni. Sunni want to kill Christian ,yazadi and Shia. . these media will make party about killing christen ,yazadi, and Shia. so their opinion is not put in consideration ,we have to use air strike to help Iraq Gov. to take advantage to defeated them regardless what is written in Arab Media
In Response

by: Tony Aguilar from: usa
August 08, 2014 8:22 AM
so what are you saying..? we should do nothing..? should we let these Islamic filth slaughter those Yazidis and Christians just because these stinking murderous Muslims can hide in civilian areas ? Look, Morrison, I am grateful for your service to our country but please... if you don't have the heart to kill those who come to kill our children... i don't think you should be in the military in the first place. Why do i get the feeling that only tiny Israel has the moral clarity and courage to see a wrong made right ?? where is the American leadership ??

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