Middle East expert Walid Phares said a report from the Pentagon was "not true" that the siege by militant forces against Yazidi refugees stranded on a mountaintop in Iraq was over.
"It is not true that the Yazidi issue on Mount Sinjar has been solved. What is true is that it needs to be solved in the next few days, at least," Phares told Newsmax TV's "America's Forum" on Thursday. "The blockade is still on. ISIS is still surrounding Mount Sinjar. It was not broken by a military force."
In an article in The New York Times on Thursday, the newspaper quoted Pentagon sources who said a combined effort by U.S. and Kurdish forces had "broken" the Mount Sinjar blockade by the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
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According to the Times
, U.S. troops had encountered fewer refugees than expected, and those who were there were "in relatively good condition."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Wednesday
it was "far less likely" the United States would conduct a rescue operation on Mount Sinjar, since the problem did not seem as dire as first thought. The United States has provided humanitarian aid to the Yazidi refugees, and President Barack Obama approved limited airstrikes by the military against ISIS in the area.
Yazidi and Syrian rescue teams had been able to "get some civilians into the Syrian land, the Syrian side of Mount Sinjar," Phares said, but explained there were "tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees still on the mountain," and that the ISIS blockade remained.
Phares received a "desperate" phone call earlier this week from a Yazidi sheik
on the mountain begging for help from the United States. Phares said the sheik used the few minutes he had remaining on his cellphone to make the call, saying Yazidis were "encircled by ISIS" militants who were trying to climb Mount Sinjar where they were camped.
ISIS remained "bent on destroying everything that is not them," Phares said, adding that "moderate Muslims, moderate Shia, Christians, Kurds, Yazidis" were at risk. If ISIS saw the U.S efforts diminishing, he said the militants would continue to "move forward."
"My concern is, if we are transmitting a message to the ISIS jihadists that we're not going to do anything ... the next thing they're going to do is an offensive. Where? We don't know. They will decide that," he said.
There needed to be "an international U.S.-led campaign to deal with ISIS on the long term" to combat their intent to target minorities, Phares said.
"Whatever they're going to move, they're going to cleanse those areas ... first, the Christian minorities, other minorities, and they're going to go after the Muslims who are liberal or are anti-Islamist," he said.
Phares said Iran was "the reason for why there's an ISIS to begin with," and claimed Iranians wanted to "control the government in Baghdad." He predicted ISIS and Iran would eventually form a "frontier," as each determined their borders, a move that could ultimately lead in the two joining forces against other countries.
"Once those frontiers are settled, yes they're not going to love each other, but then they're going to turn their guns against the enemy. And the enemy could be Sunni moderate, Shia moderate, Israel, the United States, and the democratic forces in the region," he said.
Phares also suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the crisis in Iraq as a distraction to "do what he wants to do in Ukraine," since he had moved so many troops to the eastern Ukrainian border.
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