The Obama administration may soon order airstrikes on ISIS troops in northern Iraq in response to attacks by the group on religious minorities.
In addition to military action, the administration is considering airdrops of food and medicine for upward to 40,000 people trapped on a mountaintop.
The stranded refugees are Kurdish Yazidis from the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq. Yazidi is an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism.
ISIS is reviled for its persecution of religious minorities and acts of ethnic cleansing. It has executed Iraqi troops and crucified Shia and other Muslims. According to ISIS, the Yazidis are “devil worshippers.”
The humanitarian narrative is dominating the Obama administration response.
“These actions have exacerbated an already dire crisis, and the situation is nearing a humanitarian catastrophe,” Obama press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“There could be a humanitarian catastrophe there,” an administration official told The New York Times. He said a decision by Obama was expected “imminently” and characterized the commencement of airstrikes as “a fast-moving train.”
Other administration officials said military action would be “limited, specific and achievable.”