Envoy says Iraq can’t wait for US military aid
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iraq is increasingly turning to other governments like Iran, Russia and Syria to help beat back a rampant insurgency because it cannot wait for additional American military aid, Baghdad’s top envoy to the U.S. said Tuesday.
Such alliances underscore that the Obama administration risks seeing some of its main global opponents join forces. That could also solidify a Shiite-led crescent across much of the Mideast at a time when the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq is trying to create an Islamic State through the region.
Ambassador Lukman Faily stopped short of describing enduring military relationships with any of the other nations that are offering to help counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. And he said Baghdad would prefer to partner with the U.S. above all other countries.
But Faily said delays in U.S. aid have forced Iraq to seek help elsewhere. He also called on the U.S. to launch targeted airstrikes as a “crucial” step against the insurgency. So far, the Obama administration has resisted airstrikes in Iraq but has not ruled them out.
“Time is not on our side,” Faily told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “Further delay only benefits the terrorists.”
The Pentagon announced Monday it is sending another 300 troops to Iraq to increase security at the U.S. Embassy and elsewhere in the Baghdad area to protect U.S. citizens and property. That raises the total U.S. troop presence in Iraq to approximately 750.
Obama has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq. He said the extra troops will stay in Iraq until security improves so that the reinforcements are no longer needed.
“The presence of these additional forces will help enable the embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a written statement.
The State Department, meanwhile, announced that it was temporarily moving an unspecified “small number” of embassy staff in Baghdad to U.S. consulates in the northern city of Irbil and the southern city of Basra. This is in addition to some embassy staff moved out of Baghdad earlier this month,
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Baghdad embassy “will be fully equipped to carry out” its mission.
Chaos in Baghdad continued to grow Tuesday as minority Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the first session of the newly seated parliament, dashing hopes for the quick formation of a new government that could hold the country together in the face of a militant blitz.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said more than 2,400 people were killed in Iraq in June, making it the deadliest month in the country in years and laying bare the danger posed by the militants who have overrun large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Faily, noting international bans on Iranian military sales, said Iraq is mostly seeking Tehran’s advice on how to combat ISIL – a foe that Iran has faced in Syria’s civil war. ISIL is one of a number of Sunni-led groups that have been fighting for three years to force President Bashar Assad from power. Assad is an Alawite, a religious sect that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Faily said Baghdad would be willing to work with the Syrian government to control the border between the two nations, and keep it from falling into ISIL’s hands.
And he said Russia’s fighter jets and pilots have been willing to fill Iraq’s air support needs.
He said the deadly battle with ISIL has forces leaders in Baghdad to take whatever aid is available most quickly.
“That choice is primarily from the need, rather than the desire,” Faily said.