Peshmerga finally liberate Yazidis after four-month siege

Remember the Yazidis? The last we heard about them from the Obama administration, the religious minority had been largely rescued from the genocidal maniacs of ISIS, which had trapped most of them on Mount Sinjar without food and water. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case; thousands of them remained trapped and re-encircled, as the Washington Post reported at the time while the White House insisted any further rescue missions were unnecessary.

Four months later, the Kurdish peshmerga finally got them off the mountain:

A lightning two-day attack by Kurdish peshmerga forces broke the siege of Mount Sinjar last night, opening a land corridor to thousands of Yazidi civilians stranded since Islamic State fighters encircled them four months ago.

The offensive was hailed by Masrour Barzani, the Kurdish regional government security chief, as the biggest operation of the war against Isis to date.

Al Jazeera also reports that the siege has finally been broken, although the evacuation has not yet been completed:

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq’s Sinjar Mountains where hundreds of people have been trapped for months by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, a Kurdish official has said.

“Peshmerga forces have reached Mount Sinjar, the siege on the mountain has been lifted,” Masrour Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurdish region’s national security council, told reporters from an operations centre near the border with Syria on Thursday.

The assault, backed by US-led air strikes, ended the months-long ordeal of hundreds of people from Iraq’s Yazidi minority, who had been besieged on the mountain since ISIL stormed Sinjar and other Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq in August, he said.

“All those Yazidis that were trapped on the mountain are now free,” Barzani said, but added that the Peshmerga had not yet begun to evacuate them.

How much did the Iraqi army contribute to this operation? “Nothing,” says Barzani in his briefing to the press:

Masrur Barzani, chancellor of Kurdistan Region Security Council, said the Kurdish forces advanced in battle, establishing the passageway to the mountain on Thursday. He emphasized that Iraqi forces were in no way part of the operation.

“We asked the Iraqi government to provide the ammunition needed for this operation. Unfortunately they did not send the ammunition and their contribution was nothing, to be quite frank with you, especially for this operation,” Barzani told The Associated Press in Dohuk, in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The US-led coalition supplied air support for the Peshmerga mission, and they have been busy elsewhere, too. Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Wall Street Journal that recent strikes have killed three senior commanders in ISIS, including a close adviser to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that the strikes that killed the military leaders were designed to hamper Islamic State’s ability to conduct attacks, supply fighters and finance operations.

“It is disruptive to their planning and command and control,” Gen. Dempsey said. “These are high-value targets, senior leadership.” …

U.S. military strikes between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9 killed Abd al Basit, the head of Islamic State’s military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s top leader, officials said.

In late November, another strike killed a midlevel commander, Radwin Talib, Islamic State’s “governor” in Mosul, Iraq, officials said. Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was captured by Islamic State in June.

In November and December, U.S. airstrikes on Iraq have killed a total of seven important Islamic State figures, officials said.

Also, the debate over the official nomenclature for Baghdadi’s terrorist army may have shifted. Rather than ISIS or the White House preference ISIL, John Kerry started calling the group “Daesh” a couple of weeks ago. The Pentagon adopted that name yesterday, and in a big way:

Why not? If it makes them angry, then “Daesh” works. It’s better than debating the relative merits of ISIS vs ISIL. Better yet would have been acknowledging that the mission wasn’t accomplished in August when it came to rescuing the Yazidis rather than pretending that there was no further need for intervention.