The New York Times reports that President Obama is considering air strikes to assist tens of thousands of civilians in northern Iraq who have fled from the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and who are trapped on a mountain with no food or water. The administration is also mulling dropping supplies to the refugees, who are of the Yazidi sect and thus considered apostates by ISIS, which has shown no compunction in slaughtering civilians who do not follow their extreme brand of Islam.
Over the past week, as many as 300,000 residents fled the town of Sinjar and its surrounding areas after ISIS wrested control of the town from Kurdish forces. Some 40,000 of those refugees are trapped on Mount Sinjar, facing the choice of starvation or annihilation at the hands of ISIS. The Iraqi government has attempted air drops of supplies, but the effort has reportedly fallen far short, with reports emerging of infant deaths and growing health problems.
The latest gains by ISIS in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, once a rare bastion of stability in Iraq, come against a backdrop of political inertia in Baghdad, where politicians are struggling to form a new coalition government. The Obama administration has reportedly been reluctant to intervene militarily against ISIS until a government is formed, but the humanitarian crisis may force the U.S. to act.