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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by: Joshua Walker
August 09, 2014 7:51 PM
Guess the Prez feels some responsibility since we left millions of dollars in arms and armored vehicles behind for ISIS and other extremists

by: macron from: australia
August 09, 2014 7:21 PM
Let's hope they do something to stop the Palestinian and Israeli terrorists murdering innocent civilians..

by: da vinci from: Planet earth
August 09, 2014 7:02 PM
muslim and Muslim countries are the problem. do you think even they imigrate to western world they live in peace???? NO!
that is there basic instinct to fight for nothing....
In Response

by: Jim from: California
August 09, 2014 7:37 PM
Our countries president lied us into an illegal invasion that destroyed Iraq and its infrastructure, leading to this disruption and violence, we are the problem in this case, your logic failed.

by: Hiku from: Japan
August 09, 2014 4:42 PM
ISRAEL, please to accept love from Japan. We see cancer of Islam in Britain, France and Europe. But we love you. Beautiful People of Israel, Japan Love You Very Very Much - COURAGE.!!
In Response

by: Larry from: Los Angeles
August 09, 2014 7:48 PM
your comment of support means so very much to me and I am sure to all who understands freedom
In Response

by: Jim from: California
August 09, 2014 7:43 PM
The west invaded the Muslim world and carved it up to exploit their resources, the U.S.'s CIA destroyed the peaceful legitimately elected Democratic government of Iran and installed a brutal CIA puppet dictator, Israel wants to wipe out the Palestinian people with a brutal, vicious Apartheid system turning Gaza into a hideous prison city, using billions from the U.S. What better example of cancer could there be?

by: willem from: new zealand
August 09, 2014 3:35 PM
these terroist are saying they going to take over the world with sharia law islamic laws every where at the point of a gun ha ha try it hitler did where is he i support Israel they not holding back its war on terroist hamarse are killing all those people putting them in harms ok.

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
August 09, 2014 3:33 PM
The US Marines forte' is doing stuff like; getting people off the Death Mountain over there. This is a no brainer. I have total and unmitigated confident the fellas can put a kick butt. We need a team out there right now. On the ground. Get those families out. US Marines mount up!

by: Donna Bell from: US
August 09, 2014 3:20 PM
hey have you thought what we are supposed to do when the ISIL terrorists start parading children covered with fake blood..?? what if the 10,000 British Gaza protestors were condemning US..??

by: Ken Dreger
August 09, 2014 3:12 PM
“Take some time” ? Really?
How about aiming every NSA & Spy satellite we have and Europe and Asia has to identify these terrorists and take Aim on them! My guess it with 24 hours the world would know where every single RAT if ISIS is and a target could be drawn on them!
In Response

by: Joshua Walker
August 09, 2014 7:54 PM
You must not know how spy satellites work, they can't find targets they can only monitor them. You have to tell the satellite what yo look at, it won't tell you.

by: InfamousValdon from: Canada
August 09, 2014 3:01 PM
He's telling the American people to get ready for another 10 years of war, indirectly. Gotta ensure to keep the plausible deniability option open!

by: Lawrence Bush from: Texas, The United States
August 09, 2014 2:49 PM
Such limited air strikes for safeguarding the Kurdish capital of Irbil, our consular staff, military advisors and the minorities do no stop the ISIL militants in forming an independent state craving out of a vast swath of territories out of the Sunni majoritaire regions of Iraq and Syria. The state of ISIL is almost in its very existence. al Baghdadi and his co-planners would've already got the strategy about the geopolitical area that ISIL should occupy. If it would be the very strategy of our president and govt. to denying the access to the ISIL militants the Kurdish part of Iraq as we do defend that as per our defense might, then, the ISIL has got to keep its hands off. If our Syrian policy for the Syrian civil war would have been right, forceful, ........... then, the very existence of the ISIL would've been impossible. In context of the ISIL, two states are connected - Syria and Iraq. But the salient difference between the two is - while the Sunni militia - the rebel units do fight against the dictator of the minority community, president Assad; and, majority of the Middle East defend it along with our friendly states and ours......in contrast; in context of Iraq, there does remain a majoritaire Siha govt. that we do support and defend......... And, in the entire Islamic world, we do have majoritaire states of both the communities......... Here, there does arise the complexity of the choices for our govt. to balance between these two major Islamic communities in the entire Islamic world. During our ground operations in Iraq against Saddam Hussain, I' humbly concerned in favor of our then president in 2003 as we can smash the Iraqi defense under Saddam Hussain in a week. That had taken place. In the current conditions, how our statement emerging as taming the ISIL militia that would take weeks ahead????? If it's the very intention of our president as the ISIL should be non-existent on world map; then, broader strategies are necessary than the comprehensive air strike for just defending the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
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