Published on 8 Aug 2014

‘Today America is coming to help’

After months of weighing the costs of engaging again in Iraq, even as IS advanced all over the map, claiming Mosul, Fallujah, and threatening Baghdad, the US  President Barack Obama, on Thursday evening, addressed the nation.

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Speaking from the White House, President Obama said he’d authorised two operations – one targeted at protecting American personnel in Erbil, the other to provide humanitarian support to tens of thousands of Yazidis facing ‘genocide.’ If necessary the president said he’d authorised airstrikes to break the IS siege of the minority group who’ve sought refuge on Mount Sinjar.

It’s a momentous step by a president who’s sought to define his administration by disentangling his country from old wars (Iraq, Afghanistan), and avoiding any new ones (Syria). In June, responding to the rapid advance of Isis into Iraq’s north from neighbouring Syria, President Obama authorised the deployment of hundreds of special forces soldiers to observe and establish joint operation centres in Baghdad, and Erbil, as well as assisting and training Iraqi soldiers in the field.

Read more: thousands of minority Iraqis marooned on mountain – video

Even so, he has forcefully maintained this is not America’s fight. This is Iraq’s crisis, and only a political solution (preferably not involving Nouri al Maliki) which reunifies and rebuilds relations with aggrieved Sunni populations will provide the basis for fixing it, and stopping IS. Even on Thursday afternoon, his spokesman intoned that “there are no American military solutions to the problems in Iraq.” Which will come as a surprise to American pilots tonight poised at the controls of their fighter aircraft.


So what has changed? Well, it seems after weeks of debate the sudden advances of IS in the past few days into Kurdish territory has forced the decision to act. The measures that might be taken framed by the president’s statement in the most palatable way possible for American voters nervous of any return to Iraq. Firstly, the catastrophe facing tens of thousands of mainly Yazidi Iraqis stranded on that mountain top can be simply communicated to war weary Americans as a clear humanitarian crisis. Christians and Yazidis are religious minorities being targetted by the ‘barbaric’ Islamists.

The Iraqi government has asked for America’s help. And critically, President Obama described that US mandate to help, its unique capacity to ‘act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide.’ Already overnight, American cargo planes have dropped food, medicine and water. Secondly, the president described the IS advance on Erbil as a threat to American lives, namely the more than 30 state department diplomats in the US consulate in the city, as well as potentially hundreds of military advisers.

Read more: fear is key in the Islamic State’s purge of Iraq

He says American aircraft will take action and target convoys if IS move toward the city, and threaten American personnel, or American interests. Which is potentially very good news for the Kurds. There is still a possibility the US will launch no air strikes. The president has described a campaign limited by certain conditions (if IS move to Erbil and threaten US citizens; if airstrikes are necessary to break the siege on Mount Sinjar).

But those commitments alone go well beyond any previous pledge from Washington to the country where it fought such a long and costly war. In his statement, the president was careful to assure the American people they won’t be dragged into another war in Iraq – a pledge they’ll expect him to honour. But for one short speech, the president spoke as a man of action leading a country that does something to avoid the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. “That’s who we are,” he said.

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7 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Kylie,

    Yeah, sure.

    Like they “helped” in Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba and……well, the list is too long for a short blog.

    But so is human memory.

  2. kt o'connor says:

    The actions of ISIS, the unintended consequence of the illegal neocon crusade to ‘liberate’ Iraq, are barbaric (no need for bunny rabbits).

    A well ordered and clearly defined US operation might shut up Ultra Zionists bleating about how they’re being picked on at present. It might even put the Caliphate nutters on the back foot and make them rethink what millennium they are living in.

  3. Ben says:

    No, America is not coming to help. Yes, the US Administration is coming to help by bombing the country again. It is incorrect to apply the actions of a few to the whole.

  4. Abdul Kabir says:

    The US President is quick to defend on this issue of the Yazidis genocide but on the Palestinian genocide he remains in support of the people who are committing the genocide how hypocritical of the US president.

  5. courtney says:

    Thank you Obama, due to your actions not only are you going to regret this act, but America is. My brother who is a Navy Seal just informed me he is getting deployed in two weeks for this case. Every little single thing you said youll stop is creating a bigger issue. You are taking combat soldiers out? Really think dropping bombs isnt going to cause more issue? In reality it would cause more military soldiers to help protect this country. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A WAR IN IRAQ. Putting a bomb on iraq isnt going to cause good. it made it worst.

  6. Mallaalaa says:

    This fear and ruthlessness forced the whole of Arabia to embrace the Religion of Peace.They practised the same in Pakistan, Bangladesh with the blessing of the rulers to create 100% Religion of peace land.The terrorists in Afghanistan demolished the ancient Buddha statutes. so that the prof that once Afghanistan was a Buddhist country will not be there.India too was invaded with the same ruthlessness by the Mughals. A Hindu temple was converted to today’s Taj Mahal.Even now they threaten to bomb the remaining Hindu Temples in India. these are heinous acts which were carried out with the one aim to spread the Religion of peace all over the world.If the U.S is not there, they will be over running the entire Gulf nations, then spread into Asia & Africa with only one aim that is to fly their Black flag above the whole areas in the map they released as their potential targets.But what is the human cost?? This type of attacks such as the beheading of the christian soldier Lee Rigby will take place in U.K and other western antions too. For such attacks they do not need guns but meat cleavers are enough to butcher christians. The west should wake up now. the virus will spread to the west too.the sign being the youngsters are being inspired by the Iraqi ruthless terrorists and went to join them in Iraq. what would happen those in the west also begin to do the same?? world cannot be a peaceful place because of the differences in colour of the skin,Race, Religious, Language differences. so that Multi culturalism would not work in any one country. one race, one Religion, one language ideology seems to be the right choice.

  7. anon says:

    not sure about the above posts, grieves me to read what has happened to the Yazidis, terrible,
    surely putting a defensive ring with troops is easier than attacking, even if it were not it should happen, I strongly opposed the Iraq war, but this is where we are now, if asked I am sure a country like Turkey would provide the ground troops, with US airpower this could be stopped,
    once a defensive position has been formed, the Iraqi army would then be able to regroup and take back the offensive,
    America, please send in troops now and in large numbers, the Hell with what anyone say,s it is clearly the right thing to do,
    also i nthe scheme of things, this is the greater evil ,Chrisitian countries like Russia and Ukraine are at logger heads, about what really, if they thought about it, they should help protect the communties, under attack at the moment by these vile people,
    also if asked most muslims would brand them as heretics, apostates, and this might take some of the moral wind out of their evi lacts, and dent their recruitment,
    militarily they are nothing and can easily be stopped by the US and allies,
    please America go in now,

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