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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs