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."

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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 ??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs