News / Middle East

White House Explains Reasoning for Iraq Air Strikes

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq, at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 7, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq, at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 7, 2014.
Luis Ramirez

White House officials said reports of the dire and deteriorating situation of Iraqi Christians and Kurds, along with the gains made by militants in the past week, triggered President Barack Obama's decision to authorize airstrikes and other military action in Iraq.

It was a combination of factors that finally brought President Obama to authorize U.S. warplanes to strike Islamic State militants and cargo planes to drop food and water to help thousands of desperate refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the urgent reports the president saw this week about the dire and deteriorating situation were the No. 1 reason.

"Those reports were deeply disturbing and certainly influenced the president's decision to take military action in support of the humanitarian mission there."

Militants with the Islamic State have been sweeping across northern Iraq, terrorizing Christians and Kurdish members of the ancient Yazidi sect, thousands of whom are taking refuge on the mountain where they have been without food or water for days.

Earnest says the second reason is the intelligence the president has been receiving about the militants' advances toward the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, where the United States has a consulate and a number of military advisors.  

“That also led to the president's conclusion that a more robust military action could be required to ensure the safety and security of those American officials in Irbil,” he said.

U.S. officials said the president decided to act in order to help the Iraqi leadership after seeing what he views as positive signs it is moving toward setting up a more inclusive government.  

Officials suggest more strikes are to be expected, saying there is no end date on the president's authorization for military action. Earnest said President Obama will leave the targeting decisions to U.S. military officials.

“He will not be in a situation where he is signing off on individual strikes, but there will be regular consultation from the president's military commanders to their commander-in-chief about the situation on the ground and about the strategy that they're pursuing."

Although he has set no end date for the airstrikes, the president has emphasized the United States will not be dragged back into a prolonged military conflict in Iraq and has repeatedly said he will not send American combat troops back into that country.

The latest U.S. strikes and humanitarian drops were at the invitation of Iraq's government, and the president has said the U.S. expects the Iraqis to resolve the crisis themselves.

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Comment Sorting
by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
August 09, 2014 7:29 AM
Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a safe, positive location for military support or deployment. It's geostrategic location is conducive to US military action. The radicalist challenge there also calls for a military response. An efficient deployment in Iraq may even be in the global interest of US defence strategy, unlike the Afghan deployment, which has geopolitical conflicts perhaps because of its proximity to the Russian and Pakistani borders.

by: Patrick from: Ca
August 09, 2014 4:22 AM
Where is the world going? Putin is outa control trying to revive the soviet era, and we are trying to feed gmos to everybody, hard to pick a side, how bout this we all stop acting like tards!

by: Not Again from: Canada
August 08, 2014 9:08 PM
The President is correct, neither the Christians nor the Yazadis have attacked any one, nor are they armed terrorists, nor are they persecuting anyone, and both groups are approaching/nearing extinction in their ancestral lands.
The World is fully aware of the massive crimes the terrorists from IS have carried out against Sunni, Shia, and Christians in Syria; we can also observe the material that IS has posted, about their extreme brutality; in addition, Al-Baghdadi has made it amply clear that he intends to destroy all Shia, and all other religeous groups; he has also laid out his plans for a caliphate that would include Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon... There is no question or doubt that IS is a threat to the Region, the Western World, and clearly it needs to be destroyed. An Iraqi unity government, would go a long way in ensuring, that Western actions, in helping the downsizeing of IS would make it a feasible undertaking. Without an Iraqi unity gvmt, it would be very difficult to deal and carry out the actions necessary that will ensure the defeat of IS. I do not think that Malaki has the leadership attributes, that will lead to a unified Iraqi state, a basic necessary pre-requisite to defeating IS.

by: Reberd from: Kurdistan
August 08, 2014 6:31 PM
Good move. The world needs such decisions especially when the world is at risk of this barbaric ISIS terrorists. Also, provide heavy weapons to the Kurds as the strikes might not be enough against such a group.

by: Anonymous
August 08, 2014 6:28 PM
So no ground troops to Iraq. What happens if a fighter is shot down? Or malfunctions and the pilot needs to bail out? You are going to rely on the Iraq troop to find the US pilot? Can you assume IS has no missiles to fire on airplane?

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