Sky News & Associated Press & BBC News – 2014-06-25 01:50:05
US Offers Iraq ‘Intense And Sustained’ Support
(June 23, 2014) — US support for Iraq’s security forces battling a militant insurgency will be “intense and sustained”, John Kerry has said. Speaking after meeting Nouri al Maliki in Baghdad, the US Secretary of State said Iraq’s embattled PM had reaffirmed his commitment to forming a new government by July 1.
“This is a critical moment for Iraq’s future, Mr. Kerry said at a news conference in Baghdad. “It is a moment of decision for Iraq’s leaders and it’s a moment of great urgency.”
The pair met for 90 minutes, with Iraq’s Shia leader again urging America to target Sunni militant positions in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes, according to officials. Mr. Kerry reportedly responded by saying the US needed to take care to avoid civilian casualties before any attacks are launched — to avoid creating an impression that America is targeting Sunnis.
Mr. Kerry also urged the Iraqi PM to hand more government power to political opponents in a bid to quell the ISIS insurgency sweeping across the country.
The meeting was expected to be tense after Washington officials floated the idea that the divisive Mr. al Maliki might resign as a first step towards peace. But Mr. Kerry appeared encouraged by the talks, saying “that was good” as he walked to his motorcade.
Ahead of Mr. Kerry’s visit, Barack Obama warned that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is carrying out a lightning offensive in Iraq, could grow in power, destabilise the region and pose a threat to the US. Mr. Obama said: “Right now the problem with ISIS is the fact that they’re destabilising the country. That could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan.”
The American president spoke hours after the Islamist militants made dramatic gains by capturing four towns in western Iraq on Sunday. Haditha, Anah, Rawa and Rotba — along with a number of villages — were taken as the swept east from the Syrian border, where it captured a border crossing on Saturday, in its latest offensive. The group was also reported to have seized two more border crossings – the Turaibil crossing with Jordan and the al Walid crossing with Syria.
Speaking from Baghdad, Sky’s Foreign Affairs Editor Sam Kiley said the militants’ rapid grab of power “is very significant as it appears the Iraqi army has folded up without a fight. He said: “These are major strategic prizes, not necessarily big towns but all of them on the main route to Syria and on the Euphrates river.” Kiley said the big prize appears to be Haditha, which contains an important power-generating plant for Baghdad.
Dozens of Iraqi tanks, armoured vehicles and special forces troops were being sent to Haditha in an attempt to regain control and protect a dam across the Euphrates, according to Sky sources.
ISIS had already taken control of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in predominantly Sunni Anbar province before it seized Iraq’s second city Mosul, and Baiji, home to the country’s largest oil refinery, in an aggressive offensive in the north.
The crisis is already having an impact worldwide, hitting airlines and travel companies as oil prices rise sharply. Young Iraqis have been flocking to recruitment centres at the weekend to join the counter-offensive against ISIS. According to official records, some two million young men have volunteered in the past seven days.
Kerry Confronts Threat of New War in Iraq
BAGHDAD (June 23, 2014) — Confronting the threat of civil war in Iraq, US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Baghdad on Monday to personally urge the Shiite-led government to give more power to political opponents before a Sunni insurgency seizes more control across the country and sweeps away hopes for lasting peace.
The meeting scheduled between Kerry and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was not expected to be friendly, given that officials in Washington have floated suggestions that the Iraqi premier should resign as a necessary first step toward quelling the vicious uprising.
Nor will it likely bring any immediate, tangible results, as al-Maliki has shown no sign of leaving and Iraqi officials have long listened to — but ultimately ignored — US advice to avoid appearing controlled by the decade-old specter of an American occupation in Baghdad.
Still, having suffered together through more than eight years of war — which killed nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis — the two wary allies are unwilling to turn away from the very real prospect of the Mideast nation falling into a fresh bout of sectarian strife.
“This is a critical moment where, together, we must urge Iraqâ€™s leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people,” Kerry said a day earlier in Cairo.
He was there in part to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to and discuss a regional solution to end the bloodshed by the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
Iraq Crisis: Key Oil Refinery ‘Seized by Rebels’
(June 24, 2014) — Sunni rebels in Iraq say they have fully captured the country’s main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad. The refinery had been under siege for 10 days with the militant offensive being repulsed several times. US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Irbil, northern Iraq, for a second day of talks with the country’s leaders.
Insurgents, spearheaded by Islamists, have overrun a swathe of territory in the north and west including the second-biggest city, Mosul. They are bearing down on a vital dam near Haditha and have captured all border crossings to Syria and Jordan.
The Baiji refinery, in Salahuddin province, supplies a third of Iraq’s refined fuel and the battle has already led to petrol rationing. A rebel spokesman said the complex would now be handed over to local tribes to administer. The spokesman said that the advance towards Baghdad would continue.
The BBC’s Jim Muir in Irbil, northern Iraq, says the capture of the refinery is essential if the rebels are to keep control of the areas they have conquered and to supply Mosul with energy.
The US secretary of state vowed “intense and sustained support” for Iraq after meeting key politicians in the capital, Baghdad. Mr. Kerry said attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) were a threat to Iraq’s existence, and the next days and weeks would be critical. Mr. Kerry met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and also held talks with key Shia and Sunni figures.
Jim Muir / BBC News
IRBIL — It’s been a really to-and-fro battle for Baiji. Now the rebels say it has finally been decided and they have taken over the whole complex. There are reports that they are now handing the refinery over to local tribes and technicians with the aim of getting fuel production going again. It has been disrupted for several days to huge effect. If true, the capture of the complex would enable the rebels to supply Mosul with energy, which is seen as vital to the viability of the region they are carving out.
Meanwhile, extremely concentrated political efforts are going on behind the scenes to get the politics in Baghdad right.
Only then would America wade in and start doing anything physical. There are urgent efforts to get parliament to meet on time on 1 July and to agree in advance who will be the new PM. Everybody I speak to says this will not be Nouri Maliki but one of about three other figures acceptable to Iran and America, which has a key role to play in trying to broker a deal.
“It is essential that Iraq’s leaders form a genuinely inclusive government as rapidly as possible.” Mr. Kerry has now arrived in Irbil to meet Kurdish leaders. Our correspondent says concentrated political efforts are underway to establish a leadership in Baghdad that is acceptable to both Iran and the US before any US intervention.
He says Mr. Maliki is expected to be replaced as prime minister by one of three other figures when parliament meets on 1 July. Speaking at the US embassy, Mr. Kerry said US support would “allow Iraqi security forces to confront [Isis] more effectively and in a way that respects Iraq’s sovereignty”.
“The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq’s leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together it will be effective,” he said.
Mr. Maliki, a member of Iraq’s Shia Muslim majority, has been criticised for concentrating power among his mostly Shia allies and excluding other groups including Sunni and Kurdish communities.
A statement from Mr. Maliki’s office after the Kerry meeting said the crisis in Iraq represented “a threat not only to Iraq but to regional and international peace”.
The US, which pulled out of Iraq in 2011, has already announced it is deploying some 300 military advisers to Iraq to help in the fight against the insurgents. The Pentagon has confirmed that Iraq has given the advisers legal protection.
Neighbouring Iran says it opposes US intervention. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington of “seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges”.
Isis has taken two key border crossings in Anbar province that link Iraq with Syria, pursuing its goal of forming a “caliphate” straddling both countries.
Further south they have also seized the Traybil crossing, the only legal crossing point between Iraq and Jordan. The Jordanian military said its troops had been on a state of alert along the 180km (112 mile) border to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats”.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.