WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — President Barack Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to carry out airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic militants if they advance toward the critical city of Irbil. The U.S. has a consulate and a military operations center there.

“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or our facilities anywhere in Iraq,” says President Obama.

Obama, speaking from the White House, says the U.S. military has already started dropping food, water and supplies to thousands members of a religious minority trapped on a mountain top by the Sunni extremist group Islamic State.

Obama says the U.S. can’t turn a blind eye to potential genocide. But he also says that the U.S. will not send combat forces into Iraq.

“There is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force. Over the last several years we’ve brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I have been careful to resist calls to turn, time and again, to our military… because America has other tools in our arsenal, than our military. We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy and our ideas. But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. It’s my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief. And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action,” says President Obama.

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