Obama hails retaking of Mosul Dam in Iraq

Aug 18, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JULY 03: Soldiers with the Kurdish peshmerga walk at an outpost on the edges of the contested city of Kirkuk on July 3, 2014 in Kirkuk, Iraq. On Thursday the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, asked Members of Parliament to start making plans for an independence referendum. American leaders and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's have urged the Kurds to back away from seeking independence. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the gains made against ISIS fighters by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, which retook the strategically significant Mosul Dam on Monday.

In remarks made during a brief break from his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, the president praised the gains made by U.S.-allied forces in Iraq, according to TIME:

“If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would’ve threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endanger our embassy compound in Baghdad,” Obama said. “Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.”

The Mosul Dam is a significant piece of the struggle against ISIS, as the AP reports:

Militants from the Islamic State group had seized the Mosul Dam on Aug. 7, giving them access and control of enormous power and water reserves and threatening to deny those resources to much of Iraq.
Iraqi forces suffered a string of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Islamic State as the extremists took over large parts of northern and western Iraq and sent religious minorities fleeing.
The militants' battlefield victories brought U.S. forces back into the conflict for the first time since it withdrew its troops in 2011 and reflected the growing international concern about the Sunni extremist group. Washington launched attacks from its warplanes and drones on Aug. 8.
Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop the Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq, although he said the international community — not just one country — should decide how to intervene.
Obama called recapturing the dam by Iraqi and Kurdish forces a "major step forward" in the battle against Islamic State militants.