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Obama authorizes airstrikes in Iraq

  • A displaced Iraqi Christian woman holds a picture of her four-year-old relative, David, who was killed by militants, at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    A displaced Iraqi Christian woman holds a picture of her four-year-old relative, David, who was killed by militants, at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • FILE - This Oct. 31, 2007 file photo, shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. Experts say the strategy for capturing the dams is twofold. First, seizing dams and large reservoirs can be used as a military tactic. Flooding the terrain slows any possible encounters with military tanks and foot soldiers, giving the militants freedom of movement, if briefly. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, File)

    FILE - This Oct. 31, 2007 file photo, shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. Experts say the strategy for capturing the dams is twofold. First, seizing dams and large reservoirs can be used as a military tactic. Flooding the terrain slows any possible encounters with military tanks and foot soldiers, giving the militants freedom of movement, if briefly. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, File)

  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

    Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

  • A displaced Iraqi Christian boy sleeps on a chair as he settles with his family at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    A displaced Iraqi Christian boy sleeps on a chair as he settles with his family at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

  • An Iraqi retrieves items from a destroyed shop the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    An Iraqi retrieves items from a destroyed shop the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

    Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

  • A fighter with the Islamic State group directs a vehicle with a Christian family to leave from their home village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

    A fighter with the Islamic State group directs a vehicle with a Christian family to leave from their home village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

    Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

    Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned to a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned to a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Firefighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Firefighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Fire fighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Fire fighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

    Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)

  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

  • President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • A displaced Iraqi Christian woman holds a picture of her four-year-old relative, David, who was killed by militants, at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • People evacuate a victim from the scene of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • FILE - This Oct. 31, 2007 file photo, shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. Experts say the strategy for capturing the dams is twofold. First, seizing dams and large reservoirs can be used as a military tactic. Flooding the terrain slows any possible encounters with military tanks and foot soldiers, giving the militants freedom of movement, if briefly. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, File)
  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
  • A displaced Iraqi Christian boy sleeps on a chair as he settles with his family at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • An Iraqi retrieves items from a destroyed shop the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
  • Civilians inspect damages the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed on Wednesday as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that used to be controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)
  • A fighter with the Islamic State group directs a vehicle with a Christian family to leave from their home village outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)
  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)
  • Islamic State group militants and Tribal fighters take control of a checkpoint that belonged to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as people leave a village in the Khazer area outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Late Wednesday, militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, several priests in northern Iraq said Thursday. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned to a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that was turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Firefighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Fire fighters look for survivors at the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqis inspect the site of a double car bomb attack took place in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The back-to-back car bomb attack took place near a Shiite Hussainia religious building that has been turned into a shelter for displaced Shiites, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo)
  • Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. At least 50 people were killed as the army announced that one of its airstrikes had killed tens of militants in the northern city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
  • President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Obama announced last night that he had authorized the Pentagon to launch targeted airstrikes if needed to protect Americans from Islamic militants in northern Iraq and help Iraqi security forces protect civilians under siege, threatening to revive U.S. military involvement in the country’s long sectarian war.

In a televised late-night statement from the White House, Obama also said American military forces had already carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities desperately in need of food and water.

“Today America is coming to help,” he declared.

The announcements reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war.

Obama said the humanitarian airdrops were made at the request of the Iraqi government. The food and water supplies were delivered to the tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain without food and water. The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.

Obama, who has staked much of his legacy as president on ending the Iraq war, acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be drawn into fighting another war in Iraq,” Obama said.

Even so, he outlined a rationale for airstrikes if the Islamic State militants advance on American troops in the northern city of Irbil and the U.S. consulate there. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group’s swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq.

“When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action,” Obama said. “That’s my responsibility as commander in chief.”

He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians.

Obama spoke following a day of urgent discussions with his national security team. He addressed the nation only after the American military aircraft delivering food and water to the Iraqis had safely left the drop site in northern Iraq.

The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region.

The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude.

The president cast the mission to assist the Yazidis as part of the American mandate to assist around the world when the U.S. has the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre.

In those cases, Obama said, “we can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide.”

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