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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora