True or false? The Times thinks it’s solid enough to relay the news:
American military forces bombed at least two targets in northern Iraq on Thursday night to rout Islamist insurgents who have trapped tens of thousands of religious minorities in Kurdish areas, Kurdish officials said.
Word of the bombings, reported on Kurdish television from the city of Erbil, came as President Obama was preparing to make a statement in Washington.
Kurdish officials said the bombings targeted fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria who had seized two towns, Gwer and Mahmour.
The Pentagon says it’s nonsense:
Press reports that US has conducted airstrikes in Iraq completely false. No such action taken.
— Alyssa Farah (@PentagonPresSec) August 7, 2014
Okay, but (a) administration sources told the Times earlier that the White House was considering airstrikes, (b) the Kurds were reportedly reaching out to Turkey for airstrikes too, and (c) the Pentagon might have good reason to deny this even if it’s true, namely, if other operations against ISIS are in motion. Kurdish TV may have tipped off the enemy before it was supposed to.
Let’s get a thread up now, as events are moving fast. Updates to come.
Update: How dire is the situation in Kurdistan?
Kurdish fighters scrambled to set up a defensive line Thursday after militants from the Islamic State seized four strategic towns on a key highway and advanced to positions just minutes from Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region…
[Kurdish military commander Rosg Nuri] Shawess, who also is a member of the Iraqi government’s national security council, called the situation “extremely critical” as he examined the foremost strong point along the highway. He described the Kurdish military plight as “too much distance to protect, with too few men and not enough weapons.”
“The Americans keep saying they will help us,” he added as surveillance planes or drones, likely American, circled far above the clouds. “Well, if they plan to help they had better do it now.”
The Yazidis starving on Mount Sinjar is bad, ISIS seizing the Mosul Dam is worse, and ISIS overrunning the one solid ally America has in the region is probably worst of all. Maybe the threat to Irbil finally convinced Obama to act. I’m honestly shocked that the jihadis could have the peshmerga so far back on their heels that the capital of Kurdistan could be under threat, but maybe that’s my own ignorance showing. If the Kurds aren’t going to push ISIS back, though, who is? Turkey? The Saudis?
Update: Here we go.
BREAKING: US official: US military begins humanitarian air drops for 1000s trapped in Iraqi mountains by ISIS – @MarthaRaddatz
— ABC News (@ABC) August 7, 2014
Update: The Turks are in the air too:
Update: And now the Pentagon’s denying the airdrops too, even though ABC’s source is a U.S. official.
Why deny it if it’s happening? What else is going on that might give the Pentagon a reason to play dumb for awhile?
Update: Are we going to play pretend, like it was the Iraqi air force who did this?
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) August 7, 2014