News / Middle East

Pentagon: US Begins Effort to Deliver Aid to Beleaguered Minorities in Iraq

Displaced members of the Yazidi sect, fleeing Islamic State militants, take refuge in Dohuk province, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.
Displaced members of the Yazidi sect, fleeing Islamic State militants, take refuge in Dohuk province, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014.
Luis Ramirez

With Islamist militants sweeping through northern Iraq and driving out Christians and other minorities, Obama administration officials say the president is considering direct military action that could include air strikes and humanitarian drops.

President Barack Obama met with members of his security team Thursday as the situation for tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis grows more dire by the hour.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the militants for targeting minorities, including thousands of Yazidis who are stranded on a mountain with no food or water and surrounded by militant forces. Earnest said the situation is nearing a humanitarian catastrophe.

“We are seeing Christians be persecuted. We are seeing these other religious and ethnic minorities be persecuted just because of their identities. That is barbaric. It's disgusting, and it's something that we're deeply concerned about and very closely monitoring," said Earnest.

But beyond the harsh words, the White House had no announcement of what it planned to do in the coming hours.

White House officials made clear the president is not rushing into any decision to use military force in Iraq, saying there are no American military solutions to the problems in the country.

At the same time, Earnest said President Obama is not ruling out any action.

"The president has also been clear that any sort of military action that would be taken in Iraq would be very limited in scope and very specific to addressing a core American objective," he said.

A Pentagon official says the United States has begun an effort to deliver emergency humanitarian aid to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis facing death at the hands of Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.

The official says U.S. personnel in the region are getting ready to air drop food, water and other essential supplies.  He says airstrikes "remain an option" to protect assets and diplomatic and military personnel in Irbil, where the United States has a consulate.

The mission of hundreds of U.S. troops who have been ordered to Iraq recently has been to safeguard American interests, including protecting the American embassy, and assessing the capabilities of Iraqi forces to fight militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.  The U.S. has stationed in the Persian Gulf an aircraft carrier, Navy ships armed with missiles and 1,000 Marines.

Earnest said any military action that the president might order would be contingent on political reforms that the administration has been pushing Iraqi leaders to make.   

“The dire humanitarian situation that exists on Sinjar mountain is a consequence of a broader failure by Iraq's political leadership to pursue the kind of inclusive governing agenda that would unite that country to confront the threat that's posed by ISIL," he said.

The administration faced questions on whether those reforms might happen when it is too late to save the thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other Iraqi minorities from possible slaughter by the militants.

 

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid