Iraq crisis: American intervention against Isis boosts Kurdish morale as President Obama launches more air strikes

Soldiers say they have opened a road for thousands of stranded Yazidis as airdrops reach refugees

US air strikes are boosting Kurdish morale as they hit Isis fighters, and Kurdish forces say they have opened a road for thousands of Yazidis cut off in the mountains. US military cargo planes have dropped supplies, though not enough to prevent deaths from starvation.

President Barack Obama said yesterday that the air strikes had destroyed arms and equipment that Isis could have used to attack Erbil, the Kurdish capital, but he warned that the current operation in Iraq could take some time. "I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks," he said. He stressed repeatedly the importance of Iraq forming its own inclusive government in which power is shared between all communities.

US air and drone attacks so far have been limited in scope, hitting an Isis convoy of seven vehicles, a mortar position and a mobile artillery piece. Nevertheless, US intervention has helped to curb panic in Erbil with some of those who fled returning to their homes.

President Obama is emphasising that the US does not want to be drawn back into a wider war in Iraq and will not send ground troops, but the US will evidently not allow Isis to capture Erbil or Baghdad. He described US's vigilance against Isis that could "launch attacks" outside Iraq and a "counter-terrorism element" to the ongoing operation. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a press conference in Erbil that "air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists' capabilities and achieve strategic gains – and have been very effective".

"I can confirm that we have succeeded in reaching the mountain and opening a road for the refugees," said a Kurdish military spokesman. The plight of the Yazidis, a sect persecuted by Isis as "polytheists", the kidnapping of hundreds of Yazidi women, and the flight of the Christians have given a humanitarian justification for President Obama's authorisation of military action which might otherwise be unpopular in the US.

US planes conducted a second airdrop of food and water yesterday for those trapped in the Sinjar mountains. Escorted by two Navy fighter jets, three planes dropped 72 bundles of supplies for the refugees.

"The morale of the Kurds is recovering as the US intervenes," said Kamran Karadaghi, a Kurdish journalist and former chief of staff to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Under the impact of the Isis assault, military co-operation has resumed between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Mr Karadaghi says that Kurdish leaders were surprised by the Isis assault west and east of Mosul. He added that while the Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers) have a high reputation, "they have nor fought anybody for 20 years". Other sources say that 150 Peshmerga were killed and 550 were wounded.

In 2003, US air power was used effectively in support of the Peshmerga and against Saddam Hussein's army. There are about three dozen US military trainers in Erbil, but it is unclear if Washington would permit anything like the same degree of US-Kurdish co-operation.

Nobody doubts that Isis will be very tough opponents. Their religious fanaticism has been reinforced by their astonishing territorial gains over the past two months, which they attribute to divine intervention. They have taken a quarter of Iraq and a third of Syria and have captured quantities of American and Russian equipment. The Peshmerga claim that they are militarily underequipped, though this excuse for their retreat may be overstated.

Isis victories have come because of its mixture of total religious commitment with a high level of military expertise. The latter is often attributed to guidance from ex-officers in Saddam's army, but the experience of Isis veterans fighting the Americans between 2003 and 2008 and the Syrian army between 2011 and 2014 may be more significant. Mr Karadaghi says that Kurdish commanders have been struck by how, when one Isis battle group is wiped out in the fighting, the attack will be immediately renewed with the same ferocity by another Isis detachment.

Iraq is becoming a land of refugees like Syria, the UN saying that more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence since June, bringing the total this year to well over one million. Many who fled in the first six months came from Anbar province where Sunni were escaping the fighting.

One casualty of the fighting may be Kurdish oil boom, with oil companies repatriating employees. Over the past three or four years, Erbil has become a boom town with newly built luxury hotels filled with visiting businessmen. However corrupt and bureaucratic the Kurdish administration, it was still better than that in Baghdad. This bubble of optimism is unlikely to be undamaged as Kurdistan is not immune from the turmoil in the rest of Iraq. In effect, all Iraq is a battle zone.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?