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Obama: Iraq has regained control of Mosul dam

BY ROBERT BURNS
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq's largest dam from Islamic militants Monday following dozens of U.S. airstrikes, President Barack Obama said, in the first major defeat for the extremists since they swept across the country this summer.

Militants from the Islamic State group had seized the Mosul Dam on Aug. 7, giving them access and control of enormous power and water reserves and threatening to deny those resources to much of Iraq.

Iraqi forces suffered a string of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Islamic State as the extremists took over large parts of northern and western Iraq and sent religious minorities fleeing.

The militants' battlefield victories brought U.S. forces back into the conflict for the first time since it withdrew its troops in 2011 and reflected the growing international concern about the Sunni extremist group. Washington launched attacks from its warplanes and drones on Aug. 8.

Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop the Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq, although he said the international community - not just one country - should decide how to intervene.

Obama called recapturing the dam by Iraqi and Kurdish forces a "major step forward" in the battle against Islamic State militants.

Had the dam been breached, it could have had catastrophic consequences and endangered U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad, Obama said at the White House. He said the U.S. is urgently providing arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces as well as Kurdish fighters fighting the extremists.

There were conflicting statements throughout the day from the Kurdish commanders, the Iraqi military in Baghdad, the Pentagon and the militants of the Islamic State group over who was in control of the strategic 2.1-mile dam that spans the Tigris River. Completed in 1986 under Saddam Hussein, it includes a sprawling complex with power generators, offices and employee housing. The southern end is mostly reserved for housing and offices.

Before Obama spoke, Kurdish forces spokesman Halgurd Hekmat said the peshmerga regained full control of the dam and its surrounding facilities following two days of fierce clashes. But Iraq's Defense Ministry said security forces only "liberated a large part of the Mosul Dam" with the help of U.S. airstrikes, adding that forces had not freed the entire complex.

Iraqi army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said at least 170 bombs have been dismantled around the dam but many more remain. He added that militants fled to areas near the south of the complex, hiding in homes and offices on the premises.

The Islamic State group denied it had lost control of the facility, saying on a website frequently used by the militants that the Iraqi government claim was a "mere propaganda war."

The U.S. Central Command said it carried out 15 airstrikes near the dam Monday with fighter jets, bombers and drones. There were 25 U.S. airstrikes on Saturday and Sunday, it said.

The Obama administration has also agreed to supply peshmerga forces with light weapons and ammunition, as have the French.

The moves may provide Iraqi forces with a significant morale boost as they try to retake territory overrun by the Islamic State this summer.

Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting in Iraq since the Islamic State's rapid advance began in June. The scale of the humanitarian crisis prompted the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency lasts week.

As he returned from a trip to South Korea, the pope was asked if he approved of the unilateral U.S. airstrikes on the militants who have forced minority Christians and others to either convert to Islam or flee their homes.

"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," Francis said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated."

But, he said, in history, such "excuses" to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a "war of conquest" in which an entire people have been taken over.

"One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor," he said, apparently referring to the United States. "After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It's there that you must discuss 'Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?' Just this. Nothing more."

His comments were significant because the Vatican has vehemently opposed any military intervention in recent years, with St. John Paul II actively trying to head off the Iraq war and Francis himself staging a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year.

But the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, given that Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and that Christian communities which have existed for 2,000 years have been emptied as a result of the extremists' onslaught.

Francis also said he and his advisers were considering whether he might go to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with persecuted Christians. But he said he was holding off for now on a decision.

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doug156 August 18 2014 at 6:30 PM

Maybe we should have left some troops in Iraq to protect them from your muslim homeboys?

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6 replies
wizardsking August 18 2014 at 5:46 PM

How about regaining control of Fergeson. DUH

Flag Reply +11 rate up
4 replies
Stanley August 18 2014 at 5:53 PM

With a little help from US Special Forces and Recon Marines they took back the dam. Leadership and planning was what they needed! Air superiority helps:-)

Flag Reply +11 rate up
3 replies
ganderrrr August 18 2014 at 5:24 PM

Victory!

Eat that, Obama haters:)

Flag Reply +9 rate up
10 replies
markschupp August 18 2014 at 6:39 PM

While he refuels himself from all his had work, at Martha's vineyard.

I am waiting for ....If I had a son he would look like Michael Brown.

But wait a minute you can't Barrak, cus you are GAY!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
8 replies
lamsantosantos August 18 2014 at 5:30 PM

The Bush/Cheney legacy lives on. Cheney was the puppet master and Bush his puppet!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
8 replies
buddwhyzr August 18 2014 at 6:20 PM

I'm sure ISIS is not what we would call a "crackerjack" demo team. Kudos to the brave men who removed their 180+ charges on the dam. Now ......exterminate those twisted vermin.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
vegastwosome August 18 2014 at 6:19 PM

As usual the left wingers believe whats coming out of his upper oriface.Lie after lie.If he ever told the truth nobvody bwould believe him. WHAT A JOKE.

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3 replies
skydrop007 August 18 2014 at 7:00 PM

Again Obama misleads - ISIS still in control of the southern portion, appr 1/4 of the dam.

Obama needs to stop telling stories of his greatness and show leadership.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
gibby1208 skydrop007 August 18 2014 at 7:33 PM

Just can't stand it, can you Skippy? Obama proves once again that he is twice the leader any republitard ever dreamt of being, and it just makes you crazy.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
Merle gibby1208 August 18 2014 at 7:57 PM

Good lord, he waited till there were hundreds of people murdered and children beheaded and cut in half. He should have had those planes going a month ago !! Thank god he finally wised up ,but personally I think it is just a election ploy but it needed to be done.

Flag +2 rate up
coopdabomb gibby1208 August 19 2014 at 6:52 AM

I think you meant twice the "LIAR"

Flag 0 rate up
riverboy19 skydrop007 August 18 2014 at 8:51 PM

now now smoke a joint and chill, the warmongers republicans have been defeated, enjoy life now. its the stupid old fossils in the congress is at fault here.. not the president..life is great now..

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
patrick riverboy19 August 18 2014 at 10:22 PM

I bet you were smoking a joint when you voted for Obama, and a bunch of joints up till now because your IQ lowered about 25 points !

Flag 0 rate up
skydrop007 August 18 2014 at 8:56 PM

Obama is ISIS

Flag Reply +5 rate up
5 replies
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