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Obama: No Iraq rescue; further airdrops unlikely


WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Thursday the humanitarian crisis atop a barren hill in northern Iraq is over, eliminating the need for a risky U.S. rescue mission. But Iraqis elsewhere face a "dire" threat from an advancing Islamic army, he said.

Obama said the U.S. will work with other governments to provide humanitarian relief "wherever we have capabilities" and can effectively reach those in need, even as U.S. warplanes continue a limited, defensive campaign of airstrikes. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been driven from their homes since June as the militants seized swaths of territory in northern Iraq.

A U.S. military and civilian team of 16 people spent Wednesday atop Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq, to assess conditions and see how many Iraqis needed to be evacuated. They reported that the number of trapped Iraqis was about 4,000 - far fewer than anticipated -- and that U.S.-supplied food and water had reached many of those in need in recent days.

Obama Praises Military Rescue Efforts at Mt. Sinjar

Obama said the U.S. had delivered 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water to the Iraqis, who were faced with almost certain death at the hands of the Islamic State group if they descended the mountain and possible starvation if they stayed atop Sinjar.

"The bottom line is, is that the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts," Obama said, speaking from his vacation spot in Edgartown, Mass. "We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety and we helped save many innocent lives."

ISIL refers to the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or simply the Islamic State. It is an al-Qaida inspired extremist group that controls much of northern and western Iraq and aspires to create a caliphate in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The United Nations on Wednesday declared the situation in Iraq a "Level 3 Emergency" - a development that will allow for additional assistance to the displaced, said U.N. special representative Nickolay Mladenov, pointing to the "scale and complexity of the current humanitarian catastrophe."

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said prior to Obama's remarks that U.S. officials believe the number of trapped Iraqis on Sinjar is now "in the neighborhood of 4,000," and that between 1,500 and 2,000 of those are locals who have no plans to leave.

"We believe based on our assessment of conditions on the mountain that it is much less likely that we'll need to continue to airdrop any more food and water," Kirby said. The last airdrop was Wednesday.

That does not, however, substantially change the big picture in Iraq, which is in crisis with a problem-plagued government and an aggressive Sunni insurgency.

The Obama administration has been airdropping food on the mountain and had contemplated a military-led rescue of civilians who fled there to escape the militant group known as the Islamic State. But it had been unclear how many people might need evacuation. Some had reported them to number in the tens of thousands.

After being briefed on the assessment team's trip to Sinjar Mountain, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that it was "far less likely" now that a rescue mission would be needed.

Hagel called the assessment a bit of good news. Of the U.S. effort in Iraq, he said: "It's not over. It's not complete."

Attacks across Iraq's north and west by the Islamic State and its Sunni militant allies this summer have displaced members of the minority Christian and Yazidi religious communities and threatened neighboring Iraqi Kurds in the autonomous region.

Thousands of Yazidis on the mountain were able to leave each night over the last several days, Kirby said in a statement Wednesday.

The U.S. troops and U.S. Agency for International Development staff who conducted the assessment on Sinjar - fewer than 20 people overall - did not engage in combat operations and all returned safely to Irbil by military aircraft, he said.

"The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped," Kirby said. "We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities."

The U.S. Central Command said late Wednesday that four U.S. cargo planes airdropped 108 bundles of food and water to the remaining people atop the mountain. It was the seventh U.S. delivery of food and water since the relief operation began last week.

Obama Foreign Policy
Clinton Criticizes Obama Policies
Cost of War in Iraq
ISIS Extremist Tactics
Deaths in Iraq
Yazidi Religious Beliefs

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Sergeant August 14 2014 at 3:03 PM

Obama is looking a lot older and that's a good thing. Any bets that his current mental and physical state is well below average? He smokes, drinks and is currently one of the most despised men in America. Did I forget to mention his incompetent statesmanship and failed policies?

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29 replies
lhelix1965 August 14 2014 at 3:31 PM

Meanwhile, back at the golf course and fundraisers which are his top two priorities......

Flag Reply +59 rate up
7 replies
wizardsking August 14 2014 at 3:11 PM

Everything Obama does is after the fact. Everyone in the world knew for a lengthy period of time that ISIS was creating problems and using terror. Also that they were a threat to non Muslims. Nothing was done. Now it is going to be hard to solve the situation, when it could and should have been taken care of at its birth.

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11 replies
Bonnie Thomas Usrey August 14 2014 at 3:32 PM

He has lied so much about everything, and we know he does NOTHING unless it benefits him or the Democrats, so how can we trust him on whether or not the "rescue of Christians in Iraq is necessary" Most people doubt that he IS a Christian, and have seen him favor the Muslim Brotherhood, so we have to get the real truth and real news elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned, he can play golf, play pool, swim in Hawaii for the rest of his term as long as he leaves us alone and doesn't come up with any new taxes and/or regulations, and Obamacare destroys itself from within....You know, like what he's tried to do to our Country?

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9 replies
tornekrayville August 14 2014 at 3:54 PM

How stupid is it to tell your enemy "there will be no boots on the ground"? Unless ... it isn't your enemy.

Flag Reply +42 rate up
9 replies
criscrash August 14 2014 at 2:58 PM

If he does anything he wont be able to blame Bush, and he may offend the Muslims he is in bed with. He cant win, the right will bash him if he does nothing and the left will if he does. Mr. President how about you stop doing what is right based on political gain and do what is right for being a human.

Flag Reply +39 rate up
7 replies
tms36 August 14 2014 at 3:12 PM

Be sure to let our enemy know all our plans. LOL!

Flag Reply +34 rate up
4 replies
bphylmel August 14 2014 at 3:12 PM

Where are the Arab Countries in all of this? Why isn't Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Qutar, Saudia Arabia, dropping food and water to these people? Why aren't they getting them off that mountain? As an American I am tired of the USA always having to spend taxpayer money while those Oil-Rich countries sit by and do absolutely nothing. The same with Ebola experimental medications. The American taxpayer has to pay for all the research that all other countries take advantage of, and then the taxpayers in the USA can't afford to purchase it in our Country, while the other Countries get it for free.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
9 replies
Mr. Brown August 14 2014 at 2:56 PM

One good thing about ISIS coming out is they have shown themselves, NOW WE CAN ERADICATE THEM.

The only good thing about them coming out. Total bottom feeders; worthless use of human life; the devil will have his way with these individuals right after AMERICA bombs them to ETERNAL HELL!!!

Flag Reply +13 rate up
5 replies
lflipout August 14 2014 at 3:14 PM

I wish my president would eat a sandwich. I'm glad he's a level headed man and glad the military industrial complex is not pushing him into another war. If I believed in god, I'd say, God bless him and keep him safe from our enemies from with in.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
24 replies
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