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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs