President Barack Obama said Thursday that he has authorized U.S. air strikes against militants in Iraq to prevent them from moving on the Kurdish city of Erbil and to protect tens of thousands of refugees in northern Iraq. Obama said American forces had also airdropped food and water to the refugees under siege by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
“America is coming to help,” Obama said during a brief televised address from the White House late Thursday night, describing the actions as “limited strikes” to assist Iraqi forces in reaching the refugees and to protect American forces who are advising the Iraqis in Erbil. The refugees have taken shelter atop the Sinjar Mountains after Kurdish forces were pushed back by the Islamist group last weekend.
Officials said U.S. air strikes have yet to actually take place, and Obama, who has taken pains to avoid re-engaging in a conflict from which he withdrew American troops in 2011 even as militants have taken control of large swaths of the country, said no ground forces would be part of the operation, other than the military advisers he authorized two months ago. “As Commander in Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” he said.
“American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” Obama added.
White House officials spent much of Thursday evening notifying lawmakers of the action, but Obama decided against seeking specific congressional authorization for the intervention. The White House chief of staff also called House Speaker John Boehner.
“When many thousands of innocent civilians are in danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to help, we will take action,” Obama said. “When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.”
No, a blind eye cannot be turned!
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