Obama Vows to Protect Americans, Provide Humanitarian Aid in Iraq
By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2014 Two days after authorizing targeted U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, President Barack Obama today said that while the United States will continue to do “whatever is needed” to protect Americans in the country, he will not allow the nation to become involved in another full-blown war there.
Straps secure water bundles aboard an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III before a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq, Aug. 8, 2014. The 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircrew airdropped 40 bundles of water for displaced citizens near Sinjar, Iraq. U.S. Air Force photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In his weekly address, Obama said the airstrikes – intended to protect American diplomats and military advisors from advancing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists and to get humanitarian aid to civilians who have fled from ISIL in Iraq’s northern region -- could continue for some time.
“Thursday night, I made it clear that if they attempted to advance further, our military would respond with targeted strikes. That’s what we’ve done. And if necessary, that’s what we will continue to do,” he told the nation.
To the west, minority Christians and members of the Yezidi sect have fled Kurdish territory, with thousands stranded in inhospitable conditions on Sinjar Mountain, starving and dying of thirst, Obama said. Airdrops of humanitarian aid began Aug. 7 to prevent what Obama called a possible “genocide” of an entire religious community.
“The food and water we airdropped will help them survive. I’ve also approved targeted American airstrikes to help Iraqi forces break the siege and rescue these families,” he said in his weekly address today, casting the situation as so dire that “when we have the ability to help prevent it, the United States can’t just look away.”
Later, in remarks to reporters at the White House before leaving for vacation, Obama expanded on the security situation in Iraq, where U.S. military advisors are working to help bolster efforts by the Iraqi government in the face of advancing ISIL terrorists. He said he doesn’t think the problem could be solved “in weeks,” but would take some time. aHe would set no particular timetable on the operation.
Meanwhile, he said, the humanitarian operation is going to become “complicated logistically,” because the international community has to find a way to get the thousands of people stranded on the mountain down safely.
“How do we potentially create a safe corridor or some other mechanism so that these people can move?” he asked. “That may take some time. “
Obama also announced that Britain and France have agreed to join in the humanitarian mission by “addressing some of the immediate needs in terms of airdrops and some of the assets and logistical support.”
But Obama drew a line at becoming involved in a new war in Iraq, almost three years after withdrawing the last combat troops from the country.
“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” he said in his weekly address. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis there.” And, amid a deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country, he vowed not to close or relocate the U.S. consulate in Erbil or the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The president saluted those involved in the ongoing operations, “especially our courageous pilots and crews protecting our fellow Americans,” who he said also are “helping save the lives of innocent people on a mountain --people who know that there’s a country called America that cares for them.”
Since dispatching 300 U.S. military advisors to Iraq in June, Obama has insisted that the solution to the Iraqi crisis must be political and brought about through the formation of a new Iraqi government that brings in minority Sunnis and Kurds in addition to Shiites, who have ruled since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Absent that, Obama said, “it is very hard to get a unified effort by Iraqis against ISIL.”
“Once an inclusive government is in place, I’m confident it will be easier to mobilize all Iraqis against ISIL and to mobilize greater support from our friends and allies,” he added. “Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq. The United States can’t do it for them.”
(Follow Nick Simeone on Twitter, @SimeoneDoDNews)