Obama: Countless Iraqis have been displaced and showing reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions and enslaving Yezidi women.
WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama authorized on Thursday evening air strikes against militants of the Islamic State (IS/ISIL) in northwestern Iraq and humanitarian operations to “help save” thousands of Yezidis stranded on mount Shingal.
Obama also said that the United States would assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their war against the ISIL.
Here is an excerpt of his speech:
Today I authorize two operations in Iraq. Targeted air strikes to protect our American personnel and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.
Let me explain the actions we are taking and why.
I said in June when the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determine the situation required.
In recent days these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq and have neared the city of Erbil where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.
To stop the advance on Erbil I have directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.
We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.
We are also providing urgent assistance to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.
At the request of the Iraqi government we began operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.
As ISIL marches across it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.
These terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities including Christians and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.
Countless Iraqis have been displaced and chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions and enslaving Yezidi women.
In recent days Yezidi men, women are children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives in thousands, perhaps tens of thousands and are now hiding on a mountain with little but the clothes on their backs, and without food, without water, people are starving, children are dying of thirst.
Meanwhile ISIL forces below have called for a systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.
So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice. Descend the mountain and be slaughtered or slowly die of thirst and hunger.
I have said before that the United States cannot and should intervene every time there is a crisis in the world, so let me be clear about why we must act and act now. When we face a situation like we face on that mountain with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help, in this case a request from the Iraqi government and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye.
We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent an act of genocide.