Iraq crisis: Cameron and Obama pledge to stop potential 'genocide' as US and Britain drop aid to refugees

There is just 'one or two days left to help' the stricken Yazidis, an Iraqi politician has said, before they 'start dying en masse'

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The Independent Online

David Cameron and Barack Obama have pledged to work together to avoid 'genocide' in Iraq as the US entered its second day of intervention in the country, launching air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants and dropping aid packages to refugees.

The Prime Minister and US President discussed the air drops of drinking water and other essential supplies being carried out by both countries around the Sinjar mountains, where thousands of people from the Yazidi minority religious group have been trapped.

But in a telephone call this evening, the leaders admitted that a "long term solution" would be needed to quell the Isis advance.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister welcomed the US efforts and made clear that we are keen to work with the Americans on the humanitarian effort.

"They agreed that the immediate priority is to get vital supplies to those trapped on Mt Sinjar and the UK will join the US in delivering aid drops.

"Both leaders also agreed that aid drops are not a long term solution, and that a way must be found to get these people to safety and to avert a genocide.

"They agreed that UK and US officials should work together, along with international partners, to find a way forward. They also agreed on the need for the Iraqis to establish an inclusive government as swiftly as possible to unite all Iraqi communities against (IS) terrorists."

A second airdrop of food and water supplies was conducted to refugees in the Sinjar mountains this morning, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed, as it's revealed that Britain is also sending aid to the war-torn region.

A British C130 aircraft is on its way to delivering humanitarian aid, including water and tents, to Iraq after departing from RAF Brize Norton this morning.

The UK has pledged £8million to help the crisis, sending filtration devices and solar lights to citizens on the ground, while also funding NGOs and charities.

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Government's Cobra committee today, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We can expect a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations working in co-ordination with the US and potentially with others as well.

"But more widely we are looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain, how we are going to facilitate their exit from what is a completely unacceptable situation."

Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby said that US had dropped 72 packages consisting of 28,000 meals and 1,500 gallons of water to the thousands of Yazidis displaced and trapped on the mountaintop following a “campaign of fear” by Isis militants.

The extremists’ assault on the “innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide, US Secretary of State John Kerry said. “For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.”


Some religious minorities in Iraq have been ordered by the Islamists – who have acquired vast swathes of northern Iraq and Syria over the last two months in a quest to carve out an Islamic caliphate – to flee, convert, pay a tax or die, while hundreds of Yazidi women were reportedly taken captive.

President Obama yesterday sanctioned the bombing of Isis targets in an effort to stem the increasing tyranny against the Yazidi and Christian Iraqi population.

He said in his weekly address today: "When countless innocent people are facing a massacre, and when we have the ability to help prevent it - the United States can't just look away. That's not who we are. We're Americans. We act. We lead. And that's what we're going to do on that mountain."

As the crisis deepens, Britain has pledged humanitarian and financial support to its US ally but would not rule out military intervention should the situation worsen.

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed sympathy for the Yazidi population and said the world “must help them in their hour of desperate need.”

“They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain,” he added.

These Americans on Twitter have a message for Isis

Other European nations including Germany, as well as Australia, have said that they, too, could help to participate in humanitarian airdrops.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government were “talking to the Americans,” according to AFP news agency.

The US is also stepping up its assistance to the Kurdish population, which is also under threat from Isis.

A surprise defeat of Kurdish peshmerga by Isis forces has resulted in calls for the US to arm Kurdish fighters as they attempt to protect the city of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said it had been costly mistake for the peshmerga to have not been armed previously.

"The Iraqi army and the peshmerga are fighting side-by-side in the same trenches now," he said.

US air strikes appear to have provided the Kurds with space to "regroup and redeploy," Kurdish official Fuad Hussein said.

The Yazidi people fled their home when Isis fighters entered the town of Sinjar a week ago.

"We have one or two days left to help these people. After that they will start dying en masse," Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil told AFP.

Rear Adm Kirby tweeted official US military video footage showing how two US Navy F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters dropped “500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil,” he said in a statement.

Displaced children from the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh

“Isil [Isis] was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where US personnel are located,” he added.

Another video, also released by the United States Central Command, shows night vision footage of the humanitarian drop made in the early hours of this morning.

A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga, who are fighting Isis militants

“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil [Erbil] and our embassy in Baghdad,” President Obama said.

“We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.”