While the Pentagon initially denied this afternoon that it was responsible for the air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq today, in a press conference on Thursday night, President Obama announced that he authorized targeted strikes on the brutal militant group to protect American personnel in northern Iraq. “We intend to take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq … including Erbil and Baghdad,” he said.
The United States is also air-dropping supplies to aid the roughly 40,000 Iraqi religious minorities who fled up Mount Sinjar when threatened by ISIS. They have been trapped on the mountain without food, water, or shelter for days, and about 40 children have already died. “Today America is coming to help,” Obama said.
This marks the most significant American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, and the president acknowledged that he came into office vowing to put an end to the Iraq War. He said there will only be a “lasting solution” in Iraq if the country overcomes its divisions and strengthens its own security forces, and he stressed that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed. “As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” he said.
However, Obama argued that in this case, the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene. “When we face a situation like we do 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 of America cannot turn a blind eye,” he said.
Here’s the full video of the president’s statement:
This post has been updated throughout.