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article imageOp-Ed: Moment of truth on Mount Sinjar

By Paul Iddon     Aug 11, 2014 in Politics
The humanitarian and military intervention in Northern Iraq to save the Yazidi community is still underway. Its success should be of paramount concern and importance.
The United Kingdom has yet to, and may not, follow the United States by launching air strikes against Islamic State forces in Northern Iraq. It has also delayed its next drop of aid to those Yazidi's stranded in the mountains due to fears that the large packages will injure or kill those who are gathering in those areas where they know the aid will be dropped. British aid drops will hopefully continue in the next 24 hours when they are scheduled to make another attempt.
Mount Sinjar should be seen by the international community, and indeed by observers of the situation, as an important test of the international community's resolve in Northern Iraq. Both in helping to protect and safeguard an endangered minority and confronting an extremely dangerous rampaging terrorist group.
While I wouldn't advocate a total intervention in Iraq, I do believe that Mount Sinjar is the start of a very important test in that region. A test which consists of doing our utmost to keep the Yazidi's alive and also a test of our ability to give the Islamic State group an extremely difficult time when it comes to consolidating their control of the areas which they have captured. This should be achieved by a substantial round-the-clock deployment of U.S., and others if possible, air power over Northern Iraq. Some manned but mostly unmanned drone aircraft, which are of course much cheaper to operate around the clock than jets. Operating with standard-issue Hellfire air-to-ground missiles they should be used to locate and target routes Islamic State fighters operate their vehicles on when traveling either between captured population centers or elsewhere.
The use of such munitions in this battle is also very important, which is why one wouldn't advocate any major bombings of the population centers that Islamic State have captured and dug-in to due to the risk of killing scores of civilians in the process. Their recapture will be for the Iraqi authorities when they eventually get organized and get their general act together.
Interestingly the man who will likely be Iraq's next prime minister in the coming days, a lawmaker, parliamentarian and spokesman for the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's Dawah Party Dr. Haider Al-Abadi, warned a few weeks ago that if the United States didn't carry out an aerial campaign against the Islamic State forces Iran or Turkey would likely be called in to do so. Indeed Iran has provided some planes in the form of Su-25 ground-attack aircraft which had previously been flown from Iraq to Iran during the 1991 Persian Gulf War “Desert Storm” air campaign and never returned, until now. While useful for ground-attack operations these Russian-made aircraft mightn't necessarily be using munitions as discriminate as some of the weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
Al-Abadi stressed in that aforementioned interview that Iraq would “survive with minimal support” from the air and that an air campaign would be necessary in order to “kick ISIS out of the region.” The United States has yet to provide Iraq with the F-16 jets and other military hardware it had agreed to sell it. I would argue it is best that the U.S. and other allies handle air operations aimed, as I said, at halting any more Islamic State advances and setting the stage for counteroffensive operations by the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga. Air power of course will not solve this problem alone but if the Islamic States' operational ability is disrupted as a result of it that alone will make such an intervention worth it.
For now Mount Sinjar is where a decisive stand needs to be taken against Islamic State. There they have to be denied any attempt they undertake at subjecting the Yazidi minority to a campaign of genocide. And if a limited ground deployment of special forces is necessary to stop them, or even to protect and help evacuate the people they've attempted to wipe out, it should doubtlessly be undertaken.
In the meantime the humanitarian aspect of this operation should aim to continually ensure that enough food is strategically dropped in that region to keep the Yazidi's nourished until they can be safely evacuated. Saving thousands of innocents from being starved and massacred by an Islamist group that will certainly continue its murderous rampage until it is stood up to is certainly a necessary endeavour. And one that should be supported.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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