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. 


    Skepticism

    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."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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 ??

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora