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Obama OKs airstrikes in Iraq if needed to defend Americans

US President Barack Obamspeaks about situatiIraq State Dining Room White House WashingtDC August 7 2014. Obamsaid he authorized air strikes

US President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC, August 7, 2014. Obama said he authorized air strikes and relief supply drops in Iraq to prevent "genocide" by Islamist extremists against minorities. "We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide," Obama said, in an address as he announced military action. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: August 7, 2014 11:29PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq Thursday night, warning they would be launched if needed to defend Americans from advancing Islamic militants and protect civilians under siege. His announcement threatened a renewal of U.S. military involvement in the country's long sectarian war.

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

"Today America is coming to help," he declared.

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