Obama orders action to prevent Iraq 'genocide'
Jirtme CARTILLIER, AFP August 8, 2014, 1:50 pm TWN
The US air armada's first mission was to drop food and water to thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority besieged by Sunni extremist fighters from the so-called Islamic State.
But Obama warned that he had also authorized the military to carry out targeted strikes in support of Iraqi forces to break the Islamists' advance or to protect US advisors working on the ground.
The president said US warplanes could also target Islamic State militants if they advance on the city of Arbil, where the US has a diplomatic presence and advisors to Iraqi forces.
"We plan to stand vigilant and take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq, including the consulate in Arbil and embassy in Baghdad," he said.
A senior US defense official confirmed the mission had already dropped "critical meals and water for thousands of Iraqi citizens," Yazidis trapped in the open on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.
Obama said there were perhaps tens of thousands of civilian refugees, and he accused the IS of attempting "the systematic destruction of the entire people, which would constitute genocide."
The president admitted the United States can not act every time it sees injustice, but insisted: "We can act, carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide.
"That's what we're doing on that mountain. I therefore authorized targeted air strikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there," he added.
Despite this note of determination, Obama was at pains to assure war weary Americans that he -- the president who withdrew US forces from Iraq -- was not about to get "dragged into fighting another war."
"American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq," he promised.
Earlier, in New York, the United Nations Security Council urged world powers "to support the government and the people of Iraq and to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population."
Iraqi Ambassador Ali al-Hakim said the meeting focused on the need for urgent relief efforts to help civilians fleeing the violence, and denied reports that air strikes had also been carried out.
Separately, French President Francois Hollande's office said "France was available to support forces engaged in this battle."
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