Monday, June 25, 2018
Politics

Obama authorizes airstrikes on insurgents in Iraq

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that he has authorized targeted U.S. airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, scrambling to avert the fall of the Kurdish capital of Irbil and returning the United States to a significant battlefield role in Iraq for the first time since the last U.S. soldier left the country at the end of 2011.

Obama also said that U.S. military aircraft had dropped food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped on a barren mountain range in northwestern Iraq, having fled the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who threaten them with what Obama called "genocide."

"Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help," Obama said in a televised statement delivered from the State Dining Room. "Well, today America is coming to help."

The president insisted the twin military operations did not amount to a full-scale re-engagement in Iraq. But the relentless advance of the militants, whom he described as "barbaric," has put them within a 30-minute drive of Irbil, raising an immediate danger for the U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other citizens who are based there.

"As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq," said Obama, who defined himself during his run for the presidency in large part around his opposition to the war in Iraq.

While Obama has authorized airstrikes, there had not yet been any as of late Thursday. But as conditions in Iraq deteriorated in recent days, the U.S. had worked with Iraqi security forces and Kurdish fighters to coordinate the response to the Islamists' advances, the New York Times reported, citing a senior administration official. The official said the cooperation had included airstrikes by Iraqi forces against ISIS targets in the north.

Kurdish and Iraqi officials said that airstrikes were carried out Thursday night on two towns in northern Iraq seized by ISIS: Gwer and Mahmour, near Irbil. The New York Times on its website Thursday quoted Kurdish and Iraqi officials as saying that the strikes were carried out by U.S. planes.

The cargo planes assigned to drop food and water over the mountainside were one C-17 and two C-130 aircraft. They were escorted by a pair of F-18 fighter jets, the official said. The cargo aircraft were over the drop zone for about 15 minutes and flew at a relatively low altitude, the official said.

The president said the imminent threat to Irbil and the dire situation unfolding on Mount Sinjar met both his criteria for deploying U.S. force: protecting American lives and assets, and averting a humanitarian disaster.

"When we have the unique capacity to avert a massacre, the United States cannot turn a blind eye," he said.

Obama has been reluctant to order direct military action in Iraq while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains in office, but in recent weeks there had been repeated pleas from Kurdish officials for arms, weapons and assistance as Islamic State militants have swept across northwestern Iraq.

The militants, an offshoot of al-Qaida, view Iraq's majority Shiite and minority Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish religious group, as infidels.

Administration officials said on Thursday that the crisis on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq forced their hand. Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, according to the United Nations organization UNICEF.

Once Obama made the decision to approve the humanitarian airdrops on Thursday, administration officials said, the decision for airstrikes became more likely. For one thing, the U.S. C-130 planes that drop the food and medical supplies fly low and heavy and release the supplies at 500-1,200 feet.

ISIS forces are not believed to have surface-to-air missiles, but they do have machine guns that could hit the planes at that altitude, according to James M. Dubik, a retired Army lieutenant general who oversaw the training of the Iraqi army in 2007 and 2008.

Comments
Separated migrant children are all over the country

Separated migrant children are all over the country

Their mothers are missing, their fathers far away. They get pizza, maybe cold cuts. They are exhausted; they cannot sleep. There are other children around, but they had never seen those kids before, and those kids are crying or screaming or rocking o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. That’s what 19-year-old Ce...
Published: 06/24/18
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Published: 06/24/18
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18