U.S. mulls options on evacuating Iraq’s Yazidis
The United States is exploring options to evacuate thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped on a barren mountain in northern Iraq by Islamic militants, after four nights of humanitarian relief airdrops, U.S. officials said on Sunday, according to Reuters news agency.
“We’re reviewing options for removing the remaining civilians off the mountain,” deputy U.S. national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
“Kurdish forces are helping, and we’re talking to the (United Nations) and other international partners about how to bring them to a safe space,” he added.
The U.N. mission in Iraq has also said it is preparing a humanitarian corridor to permit the Yazidis to flee to safety.
The group are followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism. They are viewed as “devil worshippers” by the Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who tell them to convert to Islam or face death.
More than 30,000 Yazidis, mainly from Sinjar, have already crossed into an area of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish security forces after a week-long journey that took them through Syria after they left the mountain retreat that had become a graveyard for many, according to Yazidis and U.N. officials.
U.S. support for Masum
Meanwhile, the U.S. threw its weight behind Iraqi President Fuad Masum after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced on state television he would be filing a complaint against Masum, Agence France Presse reported.
“The United States fully supports President Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution,” Marie Harf, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, echoing an earlier comment made on Twitter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk.
“We reaffirm our support for a process to select a prime minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner,” Harf said.
“The United States stands ready to support a new and inclusive government, particularly in the fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] ISIS,” Harf said, referring to Sunni militants who have launched a powerful offensive in northern Iraq.
Bid for a third term
The U.S. support came shortly after Maliki, who has been under pressure to give up his bid for a third term, announced his intentions to file a complaint in a surprise address at midnight (2100 GMT Sunday).
He alleged newly elected Masum had violated the constitution twice, including by failing to task a prime minister-designate with forming a new government.
Many Iraqis see Maliki as partly responsible for the recent conflict in northern Iraq, for having institutionalized sectarianism.
A bloc comprising Iraq’s biggest Shi’ite parties is close to nominating a prime minister, the deputy speaker of parliament said on Monday, directly challenging Maliki who has refused to give up his bid.
Haider al-Abadi’s comments in a tweet came after police sources said special forces and Shi’ite militias loyal to Maliki had been deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad after he made his defiant speech on television.
Abadi is one of the people that has been mentioned as a possible successor to Maliki. In his tweet Abadi said government forces were moving around the capital in anticipation of security breaches.