US President Barack Obama is considering airstrikes in
northern Iraq in response to advances by Islamic State
militants and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, a US military
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was
commenting on a report in The New York Times that Obama was
weighing either air strikes or humanitarian airdrops to help
40,000 religious minorities trapped on an Iraqi mountaintop
under threat from the militants.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters earlier
that Obama had met members of his national security team on
Thursday (local time). Earnest declined to say whether US
military intervention in Iraq was being considered.
Any airstrikes would represent the first combat action by the
United States in Iraq since it pulled out the last of its
troops in 2011 to end eight years of war. Earlier this year
the United States sent in a small number of military advisers
to help the Iraqi government address the threat of the
Islamic militant offensive.
Earnest said Obama had made clear in the past that any US
military action would be "very limited in scope," would not
involve putting troops on the ground, and should be closely
tied to Iraqi political reforms, which Washington has
"We're working intensively with the government of Iraq - the
Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish authorities in the
immediate area to support their efforts to address the
humanitarian situation in Sinjar," Earnest said.
Although he declined to directly address the issue of
possible US action at Sinjar, Earnest stressed the strict
limits of any US military involvement in Iraq. "There are no
American military solutions to the problems in Iraq," he
The Islamic State's Sunni militants, an offshoot of al Qaeda
who have swept across northwestern Iraq in recent weeks, have
come within a 30-minute drive of the Kurdish capital Arbil.
US SAYS BAGHDAD RESPONSIBLE
Some of the many thousands trapped on Sinjar mountain have
been rescued in the past 24 hours, a spokesman for the U.N.
Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said
earlier, adding that 200,000 had fled the fighting.
Earnest said the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis
in Iraq, including that on Sinjar mountain, lay with the
Iraqi leaders who had failed to create a united government to
address the interests of the country's Shi'ites, Sunnis and
The Islamist fighters, who have killed many thousands and
declared a caliphate in the Iraqi area they conquered, are
now threatening Kurdistan, previously considered a bastion of
stability in a country ravaged by conflict.
Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for Obama's National Security
Council, told Reuters on Wednesday that any provision of US
weapons to the Kurds "must be co-ordinated with central
government authorities, in Iraq and elsewhere."
But she added that given the threat from the Islamic State,
"the United States will continue to engage with Baghdad and
Arbil to enhance cooperation on the security front and other