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Airdrops Bring Hope to Religious Minorities in Iraq

UNHCR/N. Colt

Members of an ethnic Yezidi family sleep in the shade in Shekhadi village, Iraq, after fleeing Sinjar.

John Burger - published on 08/08/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Hollande confirmed to Barzani that France intended, as part of the emergency Security Council meeting of the United Nations, to mobilize the international community against terrorism in Iraq. He also emphasized France’s readiness to provide support to the forces engaged in this fight.

Hollande also spoke by telephone with the King of Jordan on the Syrian crisis, about the conflict in Gaza, the situation in Lebanon, and the need to provide Iraq’s  endangered populations, especially the Christians, with all the support necessary for their protection.

While Obama continued to insist that he would not put "boots on the ground" in Iraq, but would use airstrikes against positions of the Islamic State if necessary, the use of human shields can sometimes make that impossible.

Traveling in India, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that if Islamic militants threaten U.S. interests in Iraq or the thousands of refugees who fled to a mountaintop, the U.S. military has enough intelligence to clearly single out the attackers and launch effective airstrikes.

The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region. The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude.

Officials said the U.S. was prepared to undertake additional humanitarian airdrops if necessary, though they did not say how quickly those missions could occur.

After seizing Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in June, the Islamic State group advanced across the north, pushing back Kurdish forces and coming within 40 miles of Irbil.

On Friday the Pentagon said U.S. fighter jets had dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and a truck towing it after it fired near U.S. personnel outside the city.

An Iraqi military handout video posted online showed Iraqi troops in helicopters delivering aid to the area. The footage corresponds to AP reporting of events.

The rush of people expelled from their homes or fleeing violence has exacerbated Iraq’s already-dire humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

Though Obama put out a fire on the mountain, what long-term solutions are there? A representative of Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for a more comprehensive international intervention to support the Iraqi government.

"The condemnation and consolation statements in support of the affected people, or sending some humanitarian aid, is not enough. Rather, solid plans, in cooperation with the Iraqi government, should be put in place to confront and eliminate the terrorists," said al-Sistani’s spokesman Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie in his Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala.

Washington has been more hesitant to intervene on behalf of the central government in Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been widely blamed for the crisis, with critics accusing him of monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that excluded Sunnis and Kurds.

The president has also faced persistent calls to take military action in Syria on humanitarian grounds, given that more than 170,000 people have been killed there.

Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama’s cautious approach to Syria has allowed the Islamic State group to flourish there, growing strong enough to move across the border with Iraq and make swift gains.

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Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastFranceIraqIslamist MilitantsPolitics
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