Monday, June 23, 2014

U.S. May Launch Airstrikes Ahead of Forming New Government in #Iraq

Following-up from my last entry, "Nouri al-Maliki Commits to Formation of New Government in #Iraq."

Now here's Michael Gordon, at the New York Times, "Kerry Says ISIS Threat Could Hasten Military Action":
BAGHDAD — Winding up a day of crisis talks with Iraqi leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Sunni militants seizing territory in Iraq had become such a threat that the United States might not wait for Iraqi politicians to form a new government before taking military action.

“They do pose a threat,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “They cannot be given safe haven anywhere.”

“That’s why, again, I reiterate the president will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if the formation is not complete,” he added, referring to the Iraqi efforts to establish a new multisectarian government that bridges the deep divisions among the majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, Kurds and other smaller groups....

While the political consultations continue behind closed doors, ISIS has become a growing regional danger. Its fighters have basically erased Iraq’s western border with Syria, which is expected to strengthen their position there. They have also taken the town of Rutba in western Iraq, which sits astride the road to Jordan and could head south from there to Saudi Arabia....

So great are the concerns that Mr. Kerry stressed on Monday that if American action is taken soon — President Obama has said that he is considering airstrikes — it should not be interpreted as a gesture of political support for Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, but rather as a strike against the ISIS militants. Such a decision by Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry said, should not be considered to be an act of “support for the existing prime minister or for one sect or another.”
I think there's more to it than that. Maliki is on edge, knowing that not just his government's on the line, but his life. No doubt he demanded prompt U.S. military action against ISIS, especially since Obama's precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces has created the worst nightmare scenario on the ground.

More at Telegraph UK, "Iraq crisis: John Kerry vows 'intense, sustained' US support in fight against Isis," and at the BBC, "Iraq crisis: Kerry vows 'intense support' to counter Isis."

And here's this tidbit from the Guardian UK:
A close ally of Maliki has described him as having grown bitter towards the US in recent days over its failure to provide strong military support.

Barack Obama agreed last week to send up to 300 US special forces troops as advisers, but has held back from air strikes requested by the Iraqi government. The gains made by Isis – backed by disaffected Sunni tribes and former Baathists – has forced the US to look to Iran as a potential ally.
Obviously, the U.S. doesn't want to give ISIS advance warning of pending U.S. military action, but strong victories on the battlefield should be a prerequisite for the formation of a new government. Note too that despite the administration's eagerness for a rapprochement with Tehran, for decades U.S. policy had been to bolster a strong Iraq against the revolutionary Shia Islamist regime in Iran.

Expect updates throughout the day.