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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid