Jayabalan felt it was "a bit strange that the Yazidis, rather than the Christians, seem to be the focus of Obama’s humanitarian efforts." While the Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, are one target of ISIS’s wrath, the militant Islamist group has been pushing Christians out of their homes since they overran Mosul in early June, destroying Christian churches or turning them into mosques.
"I think this has something to do the exotic nature of the Yazidi religion, identifying with what the multiculturalists like to call the ‘Other,’ and not wanting to been seen as defending Christianity as a Western interest," Jayabalan mused, reflecting on Obama’s televised speech last night in which he announced the humanitarian mission. "It’s also notable he didn’t name the root of the problem, which is radical Islam. It’s clearly a religious conflict even if Obama isn’t able to call it one."
Obama outlined a rationale for airstrikes if the Islamic State militants advance on American troops in Irbil and the U.S. consulate there in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group’s swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq.
"When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action," Obama said. "That’s my responsibility as commander-in- chief."
He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians.
"At the request of the Iraqi government," Obama said, "we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on [Sinjar] mountain. As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, 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."
He said ISIL forces "have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yazidi people, which would constitute genocide. In such a case, Obama said, "we can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide."
The extremist group’s capture of a string of towns and villages in the north has sent minority communities fleeing for their lives. The Islamic state views Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as apostates, and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or pay a special tax. Those refusing would face execution.
Moving into the city of Sinjar last Sunday, ISIS militants issued an ultimatum to the Yazidis, telling them they must convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, flee or face death. About 50,000 Yazidis — half of them children (pictured), according to U.N. figures — fled to the nearby mountains, where they were running out of food and water.
Obama said his administration was also consulting with the United Nations and other countries who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.
As reported yesterday by Aleteia’s French edition, France assured its support for Kurdish troops that have been fighting ISIS. After France requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on August 7, French President François Hollande spoke by phone with Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
"They expressed their willingness to cooperate to block the offensive by the Islamic State in northeastern Iraq. The terrorist group’s persecution of religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, is a crime of the utmost gravity," said the Elysee in a statement. "The abominable abuses by the Islamic State since taking Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city, is the latest manifestation of its destructive madness. They add to the distress of a vulnerable minority that has a compelling need of the assistance and commitment of all."