The key phrase in Secretary of State John Kerry's statement on Iraq is that ISIS's actions "bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide." President Obama, in his statement on Thursday, had also said the word "genocide." Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, that could be considered enough to trigger an obligation under international law to intervene to prevent a genocide from occurring.
Kerry was referring to the Yazidi ethno-linguistic minority group, at least 10,000 of whom are trapped on a mountain and surrounded by ISIS forces. Obama authorized air strikes against ISIS if they move against the mountain or against the Kurdish acapital of Erbil. Here is Kerry's full statement:
The key phrase in Secretary of State John Kerry's statement on Iraq is that ISIL's actions "bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide". Under international law, that is enough to authorize the use of force.
President Obama has acted expeditiously and appropriately in authorizing targeted military action and providing significant humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq at this very difficult moment when it is vitally needed.
The stakes for Iraq's future could not be clearer, and today's crisis underscores the stakes profoundly. ISIL's campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezedi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide. For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it. ISIL is not fighting on behalf of Sunnis. ISIL is not fighting for a stronger Iraq. ISIL is fighting to divide and destroy Iraq - and ISIL is offering nothing to anyone except chaos, nihilism, and ruthless thuggery. With a gut-wrenching humanitarian crisis unfolding, and the rolls of the starving and sick growing daily, there's not a minute to waste. The United States is acting and leading, and the world cannot sit by and watch innocents die. We will continue to coordinate with our allies in the region and the international community to assist Iraqis to confront ISIL's brutal ideology which poses a severe threat to Iraq, the region, and the United States.
President Obama has been unequivocal that he will do what is necessary and what is in our national interest to confront ISIL and its threat to the security of the region and to our own long-term security. He has been equally clear, as I have on my visit to Iraq and in all my conversations with Iraqi and regional leaders, that the only durable way to stop ISIL is for Iraq's real leaders to unite and form an inclusive government as rapidly as possible within their own constitutional framework, including the selection of a prime minister. Iraq's leaders must confront the growing humanitarian and security crisis with the urgency that it demands. They must do so knowing that ISIL finds an inadvertent, unwitting ally in any delay in the political process inside Iraq. Only ISIL wins if Iraqi political leaders avoid making tough choices rapidly to tip the balance in favor of inclusive and effective governance.
The safety and security of our men and women serving overseas is fundamental. Every day we wrestle with difficult choices to keep our people safe. I will remain closely engaged with Ambassador Beecroft, Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk, and our team on the ground as we work to ensure that our personnel in Erbil, Baghdad, and across Iraq are secure.