The barbaric militant group that now goes by the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS, continued its march through Northern Iraq today, capturing cities, forcing religious minorities to flee, and capturing critical infrastructure, including a dam that provides electricity to Mosul. The growing crisis has President Obama considering intervention, something the administration was hoping to avoid until Iraq had a change in government. But the situation, especially outside of the town Sinjar, may be too dire for continued inaction.
IS stormed into Sinjar over the weekend and demanded that the city’s largely Yazidi population either convert to Islam or die. Most Yazidi, seen by jihadists as devil worshipers, chose a third option and skipped town. While some have found refuge in northern Kurdish Iraq, as many as 40,000 have taken shelter on nearby Mount Sinjar without access to food, water, or shelter. Unicef says 40 children have already died there and the looming humanitarian crisis may spur the United States to action.
The president is reportedly considering both air strikes on the militants at the base of Mount Sinjar and air drops of food, water, and medicine to the tens of thousands of Yazidis on the mountain. One man trapped on the mountain described the scene to The Guardian:
Food is low, ammunition is low, and so is water. We have one piece of bread to share between 10 people. We have to walk 2km to get water. There were some air strikes yesterday [against the jihadists], but they have made no difference.
Iraq’s military has been able to do little to fight off the IS advance this summer. The initial defense of Sinjar came from Kurdish Peshmurga troops, who eventually withdrew as the militants pressed forward. The city of 300,000, The Guardian reports, has now been reduced to around 25,000.