By Miriam Raftery
Photo: President Obama meets with national security advisors on August 7 (WhiteHouse.gov)
August 8, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – U.S. fighter jets today dropped two 500-pound bombs on terrorists’ artillery that were being used to attack Kurdish forces in Irbil, the capitol of the Kurdish province in Iraq. In addition, U.S. planes dropped humanitarian relief to aid refugees stranded without food or water.
President Barack Obama last night authorized the use of force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda splinter group that has renamed itself the Islamic State. The President also authorized humanitarian aid for victims of ISIS forced to flee their homes or be killed, including persecuted Christians and other religious minorities. The President made clear however that he will not authorize ground troops in the conflict.
Locally the announcement drew praise from Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association and a national spokesman for Iraqi Christians.
"Our work that began seven weeks ago in Congressman Juan Vargas’ office has resulted in a crescendo of tears, smiles and joy throughout the entire Iraqi Christian community," Arabo said, referring to a Congressional resolution authored by Vargas and drafted by Arabo calling for humanitarian aid.
The measure passed the House unanimously. "We wholeheartedly stand by the Obama Administration in its push for targeted airstrikes and a humanitarian mission in Iraq.
Arabo called the President's actions “ a step in the right direction for our global community, adding, “We commend President Obama for referring to this massacre as a targeted genocide.'”
Tens of thousands of Iraqis are stranded on mountains around Sinjar city, which ISIS seized Sunday. At least 40 Yazidi children reportedly died due to lack of water, food and shelter. An estimated 40,000 people are trapped in the area. Similar scenarios have occurred elsewhere in Iraq including Mosul, where Iraqi Chaldean Christians have been forced to flee, convert to Islam, or be slaughtered as ISIS continues its brutal incursion across northern Iraq.
The Kurdish are also protecting U.S. personnel in the city, U.S. Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement on the Pentagon website. “As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities,” he added.
“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said during a nationally televised address at the White House Thursday night. “When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I think the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.”
Obama authorized two operations in Iraq. The first is targeted airstrikes to defend Americans. The most immediate threat now is in Irbil, where the United States maintains a consulate, but the airstrikes are not limited to Irbil.
“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad,” the president said. “We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.”
August daytime temperatures in Iraq soar well into the 100s. The aircraft dropped enough water and food for 8,000 people, White House officials said, The Department of Defense reports. Obama also authorized targeted airstrikes to help Iraqi forces to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.
This does not mean American troops will be deploying in large numbers to Iraq, he emphasized.
“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq, and so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” the president said. “The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”
Arabo and a coalition that he assembled have been in regular contact with Ben Rhodes, Assistant to President Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. He met with Rhodes one day before passage of the resolution. On August 7, members of the coalition were back at the White House meeting with National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
They are also working with resettlement agencies like Catholic Relief Services, and the State Department to ensure humanitarian aide in Iraq is routed correctly, and to rally the United Nations. There are people in Northern Iraq who don't have diapers, water, food, etc. which is why Mark and his team are searching for humanitarian agencies to help on the ground in Northern Iraq.
The Chaldean Catholic church and the Roman Catholic church are two branches of the one Catholic Church. Both accept the authority of the Pope, have valid apostolic succession, and are agreed on all significant points of doctrine.
“Our work helped lead to this executive action, but our work has only just begun,” Arabo concluded in a statement sent to media. “Now, we start the long road to recovery for the plight of these minorities in Iraq , and we work toward ensuring a crisis like this never occurs again."
Chaldeans aren’t the only local group speaking out on Iraq. Local Kurdish-Americans have announced a rally on Monday to call for Kurdish independence. The Kurds have faced persecution in the past under Saddam Hussein and now again at the hands of ISIS. The rally will be held in front of the federal building at 880 Front Street in downtown San Diego from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.