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Airstrikes as long as needed, says Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Saturday, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Saturday, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

Standing a few meters in front of an imposing Marine One helicopter, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a clear message to warring factions in Iraq on Saturday morning that airstrikes in Iraq would continue for as long as necessary to protect U.S. personnel and religious minorities trapped on a mountain near Sinjar by the militant Islamic State (ISIL) group.

Mr. Obama however emphasised that “the most important timetable I’m focused on now,” was for the creation of a more inclusive national government by the Iraqi people, which is the key to a long-term solution.

The President’s comments came scarcely 24 hours after U.S. F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery unit near Erbil, in the Kurd-dominated region of Iraq, supported by drone strikes and additional missile attacks against an ISIL mortar position and convoy.

The U.S. also air-dropped thousands of litres of fresh water and ready-to-eat meals in the mountainous region of Sinjar, where over 40,000 members of the minority Yazidi community were said to be trapped by advancing ISIL forces.

In that context Mr. Obama said this weekend that his administration felt “confident we can prevent ISIL from going up the mountain [in Sinjar] and slaughtering people who are there,” although he added, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks.”

Facing media questions on whether this could become another costly war for the U.S. economy Mr. Obama replied that currently the administration was operating within the budget constraints available and did not plan to request the U.S. Congress for more money.

Yet he underscored the importance of disparate political factions coming together to form a broader national unity government in Baghdad if a more permanent peace was emerge in the country.

Specifically addressing the Sunni community Mr. Obama said that it was imperative that they realise that “ISIL is not the only game in town,” and that the militant group’s “barbarity and brutality,” should convince Sunnis to invest in pushing back on extremism.

In response to a question about whether he had second thoughts about not leaving U.S. troops in Iraq, Mr. Obama retorted that he was surprised by the “degree to which this issue keeps coming up,” and that after turning over the keys to a sovereign Iraq under a previous administration it was the Iraqis who declined to have any further American troops there.

“That entire analysis is bogus and wrong, but it gets peddled,” he said, adding that it “presupposes that I would have overridden [the decision of a] sovereign Iraqi government.”


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Printable version | May 18, 2022 11:28:48 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/U.S.-airstrikes-have-destroyed-Islamic-State-militants%E2%80%99-arms-equipment-in-Iraq-Barack-Obamas-speech-on-Iraq/article60089469.ece