Air strikes in Iraq A time to act
OVERCOMING his deep wariness of overseas entanglements, President Barack Obama has authorised American generals to launch air strikes in Iraq against the fanatical jihadists of the Islamic State (IS). The first strike was carried out on August 8th within 12 hours of the president’s announcement, and involved the bombing of a mobile IS artillery piece near Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in the country’s north.
Seeking to reassure a war-weary public, the president described two tightly defined missions that would trigger air attacks. First, the president told his public in a late-night address from the White House, warplanes would strike convoys of IS fighters if they threaten either American diplomats and troops stationed in Erbil or Baghdad.
Second, air strikes might be used to break an IS siege of thousands of civilians from the minority Yazidi sect, who have been trapped in mountains near the city of Sinjar without food and water, facing threats of mass slaughter from IS forces waiting below.
American transport planes dropped bundles of food and water onto the Sinjar mountains, with Kurdish peshmerga fighters on a nearby hilltop able to report that most were safely received — though more will doubtless be needed.
Mr Obama cast the operations in glowingly humanitarian terms. America cannot and should not intervene in every crisis around the world, he said. But when America has a mandate, as it does in this case, after being asked for help by the Iraqi government, and when it has “the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre”, then his country could not “turn a blind eye”.
Aug 8th 2014 | www.economist.com
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