Iraq and UN say the seige of Mount Sinjar is not over
Yesterday, President Obama announced that the siege of Mount Sinjar that had trapped tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees was over. “Because of the skill and professionalism of our military and the generosity of our people, we broke the [ISIS] siege of Mount Sinjar,” Obama said. Actually, it was the Kurdish peshmerga that performed the heavy lifting in the operation, but our close air support no doubt was decisive.
But is it true? Has the siege been broken?
Not so fast, says the UN and humanitarian workers. The Yazidi member of parliament says the US only cleared the north end of the mountain while aid workers say that, contrary to US claims that things were getting better for the Yazidis on the mountain, the situation was still "fgrave."
An Iraqi MP and United Nations relief workers today dismissed claims by the U.S. and the UK that the humanitarian crisis on Mount Sinjar was all but over.
Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil claims some 70-80,000 refugees are still stranded on the mountain despite assertions from American and British leaders that they number only in their low thousands.
President Barack Obama yesterday said the ten-day siege by the Islamic State had been 'broken' by missile strikes and humanitarian aid drops, allowing tens of thousands of Yazidis to escape.
Downing Street also said the situation had improved so much that further aid drops may not be necessary.
But Ms Dakhil said this was not the picture she was getting from other Yazidi leaders she had spoken to in the area.
She is currently being treated at a hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, after she was injured when a helicopter crashed while trying to airlift her off the mountain.
Speaking from her hospital bed, she told the New York Times: 'It’s better now than it had been, but it’s just not true that all of them are safe — they are not.
'Especially on the south side of the mountain, the situation is very terrible.'
She suggested that American reconnaissance missions had only visited the north side the mountain.
During a parliament session this month, Dakhil broke into tears while describing the plight of her fellow Yazidis during the onslaught by IS in northern Iraq.
Her claims were backed up by the UN which said the crisis was 'by no means over'.
David Swanson, a spokesman for the United Nations co-ordinator of humanitarian affairs in Iraq, said: 'Although many people managed to escape from the north side, there are still thousands of others up there, under conditions of extreme heat, dehydration and imminent threat of attack.
'The situation is far from solved.'
What would possess President Obama to declare the end of an emergency when it wasn't nearly over? It was about 24 hours after the assessment team arrived on the mountain that this determination was made. It could very well be that the team was not sent to evaluate the situation and come up with military options, but rather it was sent as a smokescreen to give the president an excuse not to do anything about it.
No doubt the president fears that any kind of a rescue mission to get the Yazidis off that mountain would draw the United States further into the conflict. And maybe he thinks he can continue the air drops while the Kurds handle the evacuation.
But the question is - is he deliberately misleading the public or is he genuinely unaware that the situation is still dire? The president may simply be grasping at straws, hoping he doesn't have to make a decision on rescuing the Yazidis. Given his lack of decisiveness in the past, that may be the best explanation.