President Barack Obama said Thursday night during a special prime-time address that he authorized humanitarian airdrops to help thousands of displaced Iraqis fleeing the Islamic State terror group, as well as targeted airstrikes if needed to protect U.S. personnel in the area.
"To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city," the president said. "We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad."
"Today America is coming to help," he added, after announcing the measures.
[sharequote align="center"]"Today America is coming to help."[/sharequote]
Obama said that the U.S., with a unique capability to act, "cannot turn a blind eye" to prevent genocide of the thousands of Iraqi minorities stranded on a mountain.
"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," the president said. "We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain."
Obama, however, firmly stated that ground forces will not be returning to Iraq.
"There is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force," he said.
According to the Pentagon, U.S. forces carried out a mission earlier and successfully delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 meals to the displaced Iraqis.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying the president "acted expeditiously and appropriately" at this "very difficult moment."
"The stakes for Iraq’s future could not be clearer, and today’s crisis underscores the stakes profoundly. ISIL’s campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezedi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide," Kerry said. "For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it."
Islamic State militants seized Iraq’s largest Christian town and surrounding areas Thursday, causing tens of thousands of people to flee.
The Islamic State — comprised of Sunni Muslims — was able to overrun Qaraqosh in Nineveh province after Kurdish forces, which have been attempting to protect their region from the militants, withdrew, the BBC reported.
The Islamic State on Thursday also seized Iraq’s largest dam, gaining control of a huge source of power and water resources, the Associated Press reported. The capture of the Mosul Dam came after a week’s worth of attempts, according to the AP.
TheBlaze’s Madeline Morgenstern contributed to this report.
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