With ISIS continuing to gain momentum, the United States has returned to an important battlefield role for the first time since 2011 in Iraq to combat a rising humanitarian crisis. On Thursday, President Obama authorized limited air strikes against ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In recent days ISIS has advanced within 30 minutes of Erbil, not only putting the Yazidi, a religious minority group allied with the Kurds, at risk, as they seek refuge on Mount Sinjar sans water or food; but it also puts American diplomats, military advisors, and other American citizens based there in danger. On Thursday Mr. Obama made a statement in which he said “Earlier this week one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help, well today America is coming to help.” American military aircrafts dropped food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqi Yazidi trapped on Mount Sinjar Thursday. They delivered 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 meals. An administration official has said that the humanitarian effort would be continued as needed.
ISIS is an offshoot of Al Qaeda that believes Iraq’s Shiites, Christians, and Yazidi are infidels. Currently, the minority Yazidi stuck on Mount Sinjar are facing an ultimatum; either they leave the mountain and face execution, or die of starvation on the mountain. According to UNICEF, 40 children have already died during the crisis due to dehydration and heat.
With the threat of a genocide in Iraq, Mr. Obama said “When we have the unique capacity to avert a massacre, the United States cannot turn a blind eye.” And while this dire situation on Mount Sinjar was the turning point in America’s involvement in Iraq, the President has said that “As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq.” Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said “The Kurds are worth helping and defending.”
While many are in support of America’s aid to the Yazidi, most, if not all of us, cannot help but wonder if this really will lead to another war in Iraq…or if the war in Iraq ever actually ended at all.
A large part of President Obama’s run for the presidency was focused on ending the war in Iraq entirely. The last soldiers left Iraq in 2011 after which the President declared that America had ended the war “responsibly…leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self reliant government.” Since then the President has tried his hardest to stay out of the rising tensions in the Middle East…until now.
President Obama has been reluctant to take military action in Iraq while Prime Minister Maliki remains in office, but with pleas from Kurdish officials and the ever present danger facing Americans currently on the ground in Iraq, intervention is a necessary evil. Air strikes were carried out on the towns of Gwer and Mahmour on Thursday. Two 500 pound bombs were dropped on a piece of ISIS’ artillery and the truck carrying it. As Kenneth M. Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution said “The White House is going to recognize that the need to commit air power to Iraq, even for a purely humanitarian mission, is going to open them up to greater criticism for their disengagement from Iraq.” In June the President deployed troops to Iraq for security purposes. Since then the situation has only been deteriorating. With such a short amount of time between American troops pulling out of Iraq and being put back in, it seems that the war never actually ended in Iraq at all. But with the threat against our own people, as well as thousands of innocent Iraqis, action by the United States is necessary.
Romesh Ratnesar, the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, discussed how history tends to repeat itself in his article “Is The US Going Back To War With Iraq?” Ratnesar pointed out how the post-Cold War era consisted of limited American humanitarian missions. Libya in 2011 consisted of American intervention, as did Somalia in 1993 and Iraq in 1991. While the President may have good intentions by intervening in the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, it is evident that these actions will most likely lead to the worst consequence possible; prolonging the never ending “war” with Iraq that Mr. Obama has worked so hard to end. As Ratnesar said, “history suggests that good intentions can often lead to war.”
Baker, Peter. “Obama, With Reluctance, Returns to Action in Iraq.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Aug. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/08/world/middleeast/a-return-to-action.html>.
Cooper, Helene, Mark Landler, and Alissa Rubin. “Obama Allows Limited Airstrikes on ISIS.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Aug. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/08/world/middleeast/obama-weighs-military-strikes-to-aid-trapped-iraqis-officials-say.html?_r=1>.
“Iraq History Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 1 Jan. 1970. Web. 8 Aug. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/30/world/meast/iraq-history-fast-facts/>.
Ratnesar, Romesh. “Is the U.S. Going Back to War in Iraq?.” Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2014. <http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-08-07/is-the-u-dot-s-dot-going-back-to-war-in-iraq>.
Van Auken, Bill. “The Iraq War is Not Over: US Prepares for Direct Military Intervention, Drone Airstrike Campaign.” Global Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2014. <http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-iraq-war-is-not-over-us-prepares-for-direct-military-intervention-drone-airstrike-campaign/5362764>.
Image Credit: U.S. Department of Defense: http://www.defense.gov/HomePagePhotos/LeadPhotoImage.aspx?id=469