BEIRUT

Middle East

US hits ISIS as it re-engages in Iraq

A U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornet jet. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

WASHINGTON: U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamist militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, redeeming President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that two F/A-18 jets dropped 227-kilogram bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it.

In a televised to the speech Thursday night, Obama had threatened to renew U.S. military involvement in Iraq's long sectarian war. He said that American military planes already had carried out airdrops of food and water, at the request of the Iraqi government, to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities atop a mountain surrounded by militants and desperately in need of supplies.

"America is coming to help," the president said in a somber speech from the White House.

The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.

"Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well, today, America is coming to help," Obama said. "We're also consulting with other countries - and the United Nations - who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis."

The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war. Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he once called the "dumb war" in Iraq.

Mindful of the public's aversion to another lengthy war, Obama acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis.

"As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said.

Even so, he outlined a rationale for airstrikes if the Islamic State militants advance on American troops in the northern city of Irbil and the U.S. consulate there in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group's swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq.

"When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action," Obama said. "That's my responsibility as commander in chief."

He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians.

Obama spoke following a day of urgent discussions with his national security team. He addressed the nation only after the American military aircraft delivering food and water to the Iraqis had safely left the drop site in northern Iraq.

The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region.

The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude.

The president cast the mission to assist the Yazidis as part of the American mandate to assist around the world when the U.S. has the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre.

In those cases, Obama said, "we can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide."

Officials said the U.S. was prepared to undertake additional humanitarian airdrops if necessary, though they did not say how quickly those missions could occur.

Administration officials said they believe unilateral U.S. strikes would be consistent with international law in part because the Iraqi government has asked for Washington to take military action. They also said Obama had the constitutional authority to act on his own in order to protect American citizens.

Still, there was no guarantee that the president's threat of military strikes would actually be followed by action. He similarly authorized strikes in Syria last summer after chemical weapons were deployed, but those attacks were never carried out, in part because of domestic political concerns and also because an international agreement to strip Syria of its stockpiles of the deadly gases.

Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama's cautious approach to Syria has allowed the Islamic State group to flourish there, growing strong enough to move across the border with Iraq and make swift gains.

In light of the militants' advances, Obama dispatched about 800 U.S. forces to Iraq earlier this year, with those troops largely split between joint operation centers in Baghdad and Irbil.

 

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamist militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, redeeming President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans.

In a televised to the speech Thursday night, Obama had threatened to renew U.S. military involvement in Iraq's long sectarian war.

The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war.

Mindful of the public's aversion to another lengthy war, Obama acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis.

In light of the militants' advances, Obama dispatched about 800 U.S. forces to Iraq earlier this year, with those troops largely split between joint operation centers in Baghdad and Irbil.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here