U.S. Launches New Airstrikes in Iraq
BREAKING NEWS: The US has launched a new round of airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State (IS), a political group in northern Iraq.
According to the Pentagon, US aircraft attacked artillery being used against Kurdish forces defending the city of Irbil. The Kurds in Northern Iraq have maintained a stable, semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq since the mid 1990s when the UN authorized a protective no-fly-zone across Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from gas attacks by Saddam Hussein. Since then, the Kurds have strengthened their semi-autonomous credentials through good relations with Western nations and adherence to multicultural democratic principles.
The Sunni Muslim political group IS, formerly known as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), has gained control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Over the past several months, IS has waged a war against local minorities including a sizable Christian population, along with Shia Muslims and Yazidis (a sect that, along with Christians, have been living in the area for approximately 2000 years). The group has intensified its campaign in recent weeks.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes due to advancement by the militants of IS, many heading for the relative safety of the Kurdish region in the north. However, after the group captured Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) they obtained an estimated two-billion dollars in cash and gold from the bank vaults of the city as well as large amounts of advanced military equipment given to the Iraqi army by the United States. The Kurdish army, known as the Peshmerga, has been unable to stop the advance of IS (now emboldened by heavily armored advanced military technology), despite being a well-trained and formidable fighting force.
President Obama has authorized US airstrikes to protect the largest city in Kurdistan, Irbil, both due to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees taking shelter there, as well as to protect the US consulate and military advisors that have been sent to the city to aid the Kurds in their fight. The president has aslo authorized the use of airstrikes to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, a small mountain range in norther Iraq where approximately 40,000 Yazidi men, women and children have taken refuge. These people are known to have no food or water and have already begun to die of starvation on the mountaintop surrounded by IS fighters on all sides. IS’s threats of conversion or death have been discribed as genocide by various Western and local officials. The US has dropped food relief to the Yazidi trapped on the mountain.
It has also been confirmed that IS has taken control of an important hydroelectric damn in northern Iraq. According to US officials,
..the dam is a vital part of Iraq’s infrastructure as it controls water levels on the Tigris River and is a key source of water and electricity generation for the Iraqi people.
Update: 8/8/14 Fri. 3:55 PM EST
The US announced only minutes ago that they have carried out additional strikes outside of the Kurdish city of Irbil against IS targets.
This story is ongoing and Sensible Reason will bring you updates as they happen.