News / Middle East

    US Weighs Operation to Aid Yazidis in Iraq Mountains

    Yazidi children, fleeing violence from Islamic State militants Sinjar, Iraq, head toward the town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate, near the Syrian border, Aug. 10, 2014.
    Yazidi children, fleeing violence from Islamic State militants Sinjar, Iraq, head toward the town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate, near the Syrian border, Aug. 10, 2014.
    Reuters

    After three days of airstrikes on Islamist militants threatening northern Iraq, the United States has "blunted" their advanced but "not contained or broken the momentum," a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

    Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr., the Joint Chiefs of Staff operations director, said the targeted U.S. raids on the Islamic State group "have reduced the threats" to Kurdish troops defending the northeastern city of Irbil, to American diplomatic personnel and military advisers stationed there, and to Iraqi religious minorities stranded on Mount Sinjar.

    But, Mayville conceded in a news conference at the Pentagon, the raids on the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant likely will have “a temporary effect. … What I expect the ISIL to do is to pick up and move.  … I in no way want to suggest we’ve contained or broken the momentum.”   

    Mayville said there were no plans to expand the U.S. air campaign beyond defensive measures.

    The United States also has been been conducting airdrops of humanitarian aid -- food, water and blankets -- to the thousands of Yazidi refugees on Sinjar’s slopes, Mayville said.

    Iraqi's air force began evacuating some refugees Monday, CNN showed. 

    Proposals for a risky mission to save the group underscore the limits of the airdrops, ordered last week by President Barack Obama.

    “We're reviewing options for removing the remaining civilians off the mountain,” deputy U.S. national security adviser Ben Rhodes told Reuters on Sunday.

    Asked Monday whether any plans for a rescue mission had crystalized, Mayville said Iraq, the United States and its allies needed "a better understanding of what’s going on up there." He noted Kurdish, British and French forces all were helping.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah announced Monday that USAID would be sending a disaster assistance response team to Iraq.

    “To help manage and coordinate the U.S. government’s humanitarian aid effort and responding to the request of Ambassador Beecroft, I am deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Iraq," Shah said in a statement. "This team will work closely with local officials, the international community, and humanitarian relief agencies to identify needs and expedite life-saving assistance to those caught in the midst of violence."

    Humanitarian corridor considered

    The U.N. mission in Iraq has also said it is preparing a humanitarian corridor to permit the Yazidis to flee to safety.

    The group are followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism. They are viewed as “devil worshippers” by the Sunni militants of Islamic State who tell them to convert to Islam or face death.

    More than 30,000 Yazidis, mainly from Sinjar, have already crossed into an area of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish security forces after a weeklong journey that took them through Syria after they left the mountain retreat that had become a graveyard for many, according to Yazidis and U.N. officials.

    Yet any mission to evacuate the remaining Yazidis from the  mountain is likely to be perilous, and could test Obama's pledge to limit U.S. involvement in Iraq's latest chaos.

    “That's going to be a very big operation,' said Ken Pollack, a former CIA and White House expert on the region, now at the private Brookings Institution. “They can't stay on the mountain. They have to leave.”

    On Sunday night, four U.S. cargo aircraft dropped food and water in the latest delivery, the U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement.

    U.S. forces have dropped a total of more than 74,000 meals and more than 15,000 gallons of fresh drinking water so far to those trapped on the arid mountain.

    Militants advance

    Islamic State militants have seized large swathes of northern Iraq since June, breaking out of their original operating areas in nearby Syria.

    Rhodes said the airdrops have been effective, and noted that U.S. aircraft have also attacked Islamic State fighters who have laid siege to the Sinjar mountain range.

    Still, the plight of the Yazidis, which prompted a reluctant Obama to intervene militarily in Iraq last week, remains acute.

    “They are in dire need of everything. Food, water, non-food items, hygiene and sanitation,” said Eliana Nabaa, spokesperson for the U.N. mission in Iraq.

    Pollack said there are just two options for securing safe passage for the Yazidis off the mountain.

    One, he said, is for U.N. representatives to convince Islamic State fighters to let them go or be pummeled by American airstrikes. The second is a corridor secured by peshmerga or Iraq army troops and U.S. airpower.

    To establish a humanitarian corridor, the United Nations and any nations that participated would have to overcome the Islamic State group's military advantage over Kurdish security forces, the peshmerga.

    “Security would have to be provided by the Iraqis, especially the Kurds, with air cover from the U.S. and possibly the British and the French,” a U.N. official said on condition of anonymity.

    No combat troops

    Obama has insisted that he will not send U.S. combat troops back to Iraq, saying the U.S. military response will be limited to protecting the Yazidis and the Kurdish city of Irbil, where numerous U.S. advisers are present.

    For now, many Yazidis appear to prefer contending with the Sinjar mountains than taking their chance with Islamic State fighters.

    Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said on Sunday Islamic State fighters killed hundreds of Yazidis after seizing Sinjar, burying some alive and taking women as slaves.

    Fred Hof, a former senior State Department official now at the Atlantic Council, said the U.S. strikes could help by enabling the peshmerga, who have suffered recent defeats at Islamic State hands, to regain the advantage.

    “The key to rescuing tens of thousands of Yazidis is for the peshmerga - with tactical air support from U.S. Naval Aviation and Air Force assets - to clear the Sinjar area of (Islamic State) fighters and make it possible to rescue and resettle these terrified people and allow truck loads of emergency humanitarian aid to reach them,” he said.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: maithe from: Paris, France
    August 11, 2014 8:26 PM
    Heartbreaking....
    Poor terrified Yazidis survivors! Don't let them down !
    The Islamic State has to be totally destroyed: they are wild animals. The world cannot go on this way in the hands of crazy terrorists.
    I am surprised: there are no comments in this forum



    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 11, 2014 1:54 PM
    The war going on between Israel and Hamas by every indication merits to win the title “No Retreat No Surrender”. Already Hamas has added “Until the last drop of blood”, reminding one of such Hollywood film titles like “The First Blood”, etc. I believe until Hamas last blood drops is a good prayer as well as it is a good omen. There is protest in London concerning Israel’s strike at Hamas. Thousands have been killed in Syria, ISIS is gulping lives of Christians and other minorities within the Iraqi axis, but nobody is protesting for them. It all proves one thing: there is no justice in the world. If just the Palestinian Gaza is singled out for justice and those being slaughtered in Iraq, Syria and Libya are not considered, then I should think that gives enough impetus for Israel to step up its operation in Gaza.

    Just because it concerns Israel as the root of Christianity; what happens to all the people slaughtered in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other islamist countries in the name of blasphemy. If after cold blooded slaughter of dozens by Hamas on pretense they were spies for Israel those idiots in London go ahead to show solidarity with them, then we should see the protest in the light of its revelation – an anti-Semitic march. Because the magnitude of carnage in the ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria makes the war in Gaza a child’s play. If we continue to talk about Gaza and neglect the more serious crime going on next door – who are the sponsors of ISIS; who provides the weapons and funding with which boko haram in Nigeria has killed thousands; why has nobody been able to find and plug the link-line for empowering terrorists all over the world, including monies sent by some of those now protesting - then there is no need to continue arguing about legalities and otherwise of the campaign in Gaza.
    For then we understand that whoever is driving the matter is simply out for mischief against certain sections of society. Hence all the atrocities going on in the Islamic countries that dehumanize non-adherents of islam in those places become normal while a revolt against its dominance wherein an islamist terrorist takes over a land but cries out that it’s being occupied by another could be an orchestrated arrangement to see the evil plan sail through. IT MUST BE RESISTED, whether it’s coming from London or elsewhere, because it is evil.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora