News / Middle East

    US Officials Report Fresh Strikes in Iraq

    Image-grab shows F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet strike on what US army officals call an Islamic State target at undisclosed location in northern Iraq, August 8, 2014.
    Image-grab shows F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet strike on what US army officals call an Islamic State target at undisclosed location in northern Iraq, August 8, 2014.
    VOA News

    The U.S. military says it carried out four more airstrikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq who were firing on civilians.

    The U.S. Central Command said Saturday's strikes involved jet fighters and drones and targeted armored carriers and a truck. It described the strikes near Sinjar as successful.​

    Earlier Saturday, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. military airstrikes in Iraq successfully destroyed arms and equipment that Islamic State militants could have used against the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

    Speaking at the White House, Obama said the fight against the group previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will take "more than weeks," and that recent strikes are essential to prevent the militants' advance on Irbil, where American diplomats and military advisers, among others, are stationed.

    Obama said the intervention was also needed to aid Iraqi religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, who fled after the extremist Sunni militants issued an ultimatum ordering groups of civilians to convert to Islam or die. The extremist militia has published videos of its adherents beheading people who fail to comply with such orders.

    On Saturday, Obama also said food and water air-dropped by the U.S. military to the civilians stranded on Mt. Sinjar "will help them survive."

    "Humanitarian effort continues to help the men, women and children," he said, adding it may take time to provide safe passage for those on the mountain.

    The president said the U.S. has also stepped up military assistance to Kurdish forces in Iraq.

    According to statements released by the White House, leaders of both Britain and France have agreed to join the United States in providing help to the refugees, and that on Saturday Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to develop options to secure the civilians' safety.

    The White House also said Obama and French President Francois Hollande agreed on the need for an "urgent, coordinated international response to the humanitarian disaster." The two leaders said they would work together on a longer term strategy to counter the Islamic State group.

    The crisis in Iraq has been at the top of the agenda for the U.S. government for much of the past week. In his weekly address to the nation, broadcast earlier Saturday, the president said he decided to intervene in Iraq because the U.S. "cannot just look away" when "innocent people are facing a massacre."

    After speaking with reporters on the South Lawn, Obama departed Washington to begin his vacation in the northeast state of Massachusetts.

    Iraqi government

    The president also told reporters the most important timetable he is focused on is the formation of an inclusive Iraqi government, so that Iraqis can unite to defend their country from the Islamic State fighters who currently hold large portions of Iraqi territory.

    Iraq's parliament was elected in April but still must choose its leadership. Support has been waning for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite criticized for not involving representatives of other religious and ethnic groups.

    A parliamentary session to select a prime minister-designate that was scheduled for Sunday has been postponed until Monday. According to reports by Iraqi media, confusion among Shi'ite political leaders over the choice of a new prime minister had prompted the move. The delay has breached a 15-day constitutional deadline for naming a new prime minister.

    Clashes near Irbil

    According to White House officials, in one recent strike, the U.S. military dropped 250-kilogram laser-guided bombs on an artillery unit that was shelling Kurdish forces defending Irbil.

    According to witnesseses on the ground, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters succeeded in rescuing hundreds of the stranded Yazidi refugees, apparently holding Islamic State militants along a defensive line approximately 50 kilometers south of the Kurdish capital.

    Bakhtyar Dogan, a spokesman for the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the People's Protection Forces, told VOA Kurdish Service on Saturday that Islamic State militants had been marching on Irbil.

    “The militants are close to a refugee camp on the outskirts of Irbil," he said. "It poses a serious threat. We are fighting back to protect our people, especially women, elderly and children. There were several clashes yesterday between our fighters and the militants.”

    Retired U.S. Brigadier General Ernie Audino told VOA Kurdish that the United States should strengthen Kurdish forces to effectively fight the Islamic State. 

    “I believe that we need to arm the Kurds, support the Kurds in a way that will allow them to maintain and exploit the conditions on the ground and we can set with a legitimate air campaign coordinated with Peshmarga operations on the ground.”

    The U.S. airstrikes and the promise of further help by U.S. President Barack Obama appear to have left some Iraqi leaders optimistic.

    Fouad Hussein, the Chief of Staff to the Presidency of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told reporters Saturday that his men have been fighting an uphill battle against the Islamic State militants, but have now started to regain a sense of initiative in the wake of U.S. support.

    Iraqi leaders thanked U.S. forces for the targeted airstrikes and for air-dropping relief packages for the stranded refugees.

    "We are most grateful and express our gratitude and deep, deep appreciation for President Obama and the U.S. administration, and for the courageous U.S. Army and airmen who are now patrolling the skies of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan," said former Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, an ethnic Kurd.

    Zebari's comments echoed similar sentiments expressed by Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, who also called the strikes crucial to the counter-insurgency.

    The Islamic militant group, which has captured significant amounts of military hardware the U.S. had previously supplied Iraqi forces, now controls a large swathe of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. It has declared the area a "caliphate," and is actively recruiting other fighters to join the group.

    Refugee crisis

    In Washington on Friday, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes met at the White House with members of the Yazidi community to discuss the situation in northern Iraq and said the United States will continue to provide humanitarian support.

    According to Iraqi news media reports, Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, met with Iraq's top Shi'ite religious cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, at his home in Najaf, where both men urged the world to help alleviate the refugee crisis and insisted that all Iraqis, including Ayatollah Sistani, were united in combating the militants.

    According to Sako, more than 100,000 Christians have fled the region surrounding Mosul.

    The International Organization for Migration says the number of internally displaced people in Iraq now exceeds 1 million.

    VIDEO: US Airstrikes Raise Hopes, Stakes in Iraq:

    US Airstrikes Raise Hopes, Stakes in Iraqi
    X
    Jeff Seldin
    August 09, 2014 1:31 AM
    The United States is starting to pound selected Islamic State militant group targets around the Iraqi city of Irbil from the air. And defense officials warn they will not hesitate to pull the trigger if the terror group makes any moves that could threaten U.S. personnel or refugees seeking shelter from the group’s brutality. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.

    VOA reporter Kokab Farshori and White House correspondent Luis Ramirez contributed to this report. Ed Yeranian contributed reporting from Cairo.

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    Comments page of 4
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    by: Anonymous
    August 10, 2014 1:05 AM
    its intrasting to see US approves air strikes against ISIS , but in the case of Assad gasing and killing 150,000 Syriyans , USA ,EU, Great Britain did not lift the finger, same when Burmese Army is salugtering and killing Kachin ethnic group of Northern Burma...Burmese regime has marked certain ethnic minorities such as the Karen, Karenni , Shan, and Rohingya for extermination...650 Rohingyas have been killed, 1,200 are missing, and more than 80,000 have been displaced... Why US did not stop genocide in ,CAR(Africa),Congo, ,Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Palestine .....Why because black and Muslim people were dying in those nations and they were killed by millions that is Why.....shame on all for letting all these wars happened and destroying small countries just so that some people can get richer even more ....When will the world get togheter and end all these Wars....shame on all of us

    by: ichiro from: US
    August 09, 2014 11:35 PM
    President Obama’s authorization of limited military operations against militants in Iraq is not enough to counter a growing threat to the United States. I agree John McCain accessment. Therefor, we should hane a full military operation with our ground troop on foot against militants in Iraq.

    by: wavettore from: USA
    August 09, 2014 10:56 PM
    The many wars that are spreading in Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza have one single matrix. This took over the most complete control with the event of 9/11.
    It must have been child play for some cover agents to divide the farmers in Ukraine and to instigate them into a civil war. Just as simple as it was to detain and train the chief of the ISIS movement Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to then release him in 2009 and let him go to form an army of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq. The conflict between Israel and Gaza is instead something more meaningful in regard to what the future may bring for all of us.

    All that is happening is part of a Plan which is clear and well defined.
    Many will remain skeptical in regard to the existence of this conspiracy in spite of what is in front of their eyes.
    These people would probably like to see proofs as letters, videotapes or confessions on Live TV.
    Instead one should connect all the acquired certainties from the past events to recognize the clear Direction already well defined by this Plot.
    All these circumstances should be more than enough evidence for all those who have eyes to see.
    At the present time the strategy of the conspirators seems to be winning as politicians and representatives of the people, the same Obama, have their hands tied since the secret agencies of almost every Country act independently and work on payroll of the conspirators who among other things can afford to pay more. They have already bought the media.
    The conspiracy is not a theory.
    The Zionists want the next World War at all costs and believe they would know how to control it and to come out unblemished.

    Then how to address now the many local conflicts before they spill into a new World War?
    It would take for the people to recognize the outlines of this hidden hand and for these conflicts to be unified under the same umbrella.

    http://www.wavevolution.org/en/humanwaves.html

    by: yto from: Japan
    August 09, 2014 10:32 PM
    permition to say (sory no good english)
    BANZAI ISRAEL - BANZAI BANZAI BANZAI !!!

    by: pako from: israel
    August 09, 2014 10:20 PM
    The Israeli army killed hundreds of infants and children and innocent men and women, and the Israeli army hit the 10.000 babies and children and innocent men and women,! That's because the Israeli soldiers are afraid to fight the terrorists! The soldiers just bomb the planes and tanks and guns and war spnity! The soldiers know where the terrorists but the soldiers are afraid to go and fight them! Then the Israeli soldiers were not cowards to kill infants and children and unarmed men and women and innocent! It doesn't matter to the Israeli soldiers! Israelis always cowardly murderers of innocent thousands murdered and then run away like rabbits all over the world to achieve a cease-fire, because from entering Gaza and to fight the terrorists are really scared!

    by: Flyby from: RI
    August 09, 2014 8:28 PM
    It's always Islamic militants perpetrating violence on the innocent.
    At their primitive level of consciousness they believe their mythology is superior to all other mythologies and religions. They are badly deluded murderers who will find themselves on the lowest astral planes in the hell like regions. The President is doing the right thing in defending and protecting the innocent.

    by: Davis Y
    August 09, 2014 8:21 PM
    What I learned about the Muslim world could be summarized by the following from the novel, The Haj written by Leon Uris:

    “So before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel.”

    by: ryan from: california
    August 09, 2014 8:18 PM
    Why is no one talking about these terrorist groups running through Iraq being the same people Obama has supported in Syria.?

    by: Melon men from: Los Angeles
    August 09, 2014 8:11 PM
    I am absolutely proud of the USA effort but it seems to be too little to late

    by: grace from: irons mi
    August 09, 2014 7:58 PM
    Wow who knew that would be really bad .
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