We’re going to wrap up our live blog coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:
• President Obama said in a speech at the White House earlier today that the US would deploy up to 300 “military advisers” to Iraq, but he said “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq.”
• The president said Iraq risked falling into “the abyss” if the Baghdad government did not become more inclusive of Sunni and Kurdish factions. “The fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” Obama said.
• US secretary of state John Kerry will travel to Europe and the Middle East next week to “consult with our allies and partners” on Iraq, he said.
• President Obama said Iran could play a “constructive role” in Iraq if it helped build an inclusive Iraqi government, but not if it came in “as an armed force on behalf of the Shia”.
• Iraqi security forces continued to struggle against Isis for control of the Baiji oil refinery in northern Iraq. A satellite image of the refinery showed a column of black smoke rising miles above the site.
• Nouri al-Maliki’s government rejected calls for the prime minister to quit. This as Obama side-stepped a question about Maliki’s leadership, saying Iraq must pick its own leaders.
The Guardian’s Mona Mahmood (@monamood) has spoken with Husham Salim, an opposition fighter in Ramadi province. He says the militant fighters have agreed to “spare the blood of any Iraqi,” despite evidence in the last week of summary executions by Isis fighters. He also strongly asserts that the insurgent push of the last week was not directed by Isis but by more native Iraqi opposition forces.
“There is a huge media campaign to distort the real image of the Iraqi revolution, by claiming that it is led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS),” Salim tells Mona:
…but the truth is that all the Iraqi resistance factions have taken part in the revolution including Islamic factions.
There is unanimous agreement among all the rebels to spare the blood of any Iraqi man, even the military forces. We are convincing them to leave peacefully without causing any harm to them. […]
The military council for Iraqi tribes is the umbrella that involves all the Iraqi rebels who are fighting now. It includes the elite of the Iraqi professional officers. It is the revolution of the Iraqi tribes. It has a joint command, and they are coordinating with the tribal leaders. […]
Ramadi is the essence of the Iraqi revolution and the capital of resistance in Iraq. All the liberation battles in Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul were directed by leaders from Ramadi.
Husham’s description of the militant opposition jibes with other reports on the many participating groups apart from Isis, but his characterization of the command structure of what he calls the “revolution” clashes with most descriptions of the fighting over the last week.
The Kurdish question
“In Iraq’s chaos, the Kurds are emerging as significant winners – and their victories are fueling sentiment among their population to declare outright independence,” write Diaa Hadid and Emad Matti for the AP.
As Sunni insurgents fighting under the banner of Isis continue their offensive in northern Iraq, greater attention is being paid to the Kurdistan Regional Government and its peshmerga quasi-army. As Iraqi security forces capitulated in the face of Isis who proceeded to take Mosul last week, the peshmerga were deployed to take territory of their own:
Most notably, they grabbed the oil center of Kirkuk. And in contrast to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which is in turmoil, the Kurds are growing more confident, vowing to increase oil sales independent of the central government.
The gains have also brought the Kurds challenges barely imaginable just days ago. They must defend a new, 620-mile (1,000 kilometer) frontier against Sunni insurgents […]. Some 300,000 Iraqis who fled the insurgent advance have flooded into Kurdish areas, an extra burden to an already cash-strapped autonomy government.
And the Kurds risk a backlash. In Kirkuk, Sunni Arabs and ethnic Turkmens — who have long opposed Kurdish claims over the city — threaten a revolt if the Kurds don’t share administration of the city and any oil revenues. Still, the sense of exuberance is palpable among Kurds, who make up 20% of Iraq’s mostly Arab population.
(Read the full AP report here.)
But importantly, “The Kurds field the only proper army left in Iraq, and, for that reason, the United States and Iran will each attempt to draw the Kurds into the conflict,” write Cale Salih and Dov Friedman for Foreign Affairs:
But those expecting Kurdish enthusiasm for a fight are likely to be disappointed. They underestimate the current strength of the Kurdish position and the continued sting of decades past, when the Kurds gave their support to the West and got nothing in return. In fact, the Kurds have drawn their battle lines north of Mosul, across the south of Kirkuk province, and through northern Diyala province. So long as ISIS respects that line, Kurdistan – which banks on its reputation as a stable, private-sector friendly outpost in a region fraught by sectarian turmoil – would have very little reason to invite war.”
(Read the full piece in Foreign Affairs here.)
From the horse’s mouth:
Isra Hashim, a 55-year-old secondary school teacher and mother of three, lives in a mixed district in Baghdad. She tells The Guardian’s Mona Mahmood (@monamood) about conditions for civilians in the Iraqi capital.
I’m so terrified of what is happening in Baghdad. I bought a big lock to seal off our main door. I have three daughters and two sons, I’m worried about our safety. We do not know what exactly is happening. People are circulating different rumours about Shia militias and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isis) fighters, [saying] that they will come to slaughter us. I went to a nearby grocers in my neighbourhood but could hardly find anything. The shopkeepers complain that all Baghdad entrances are blocked off where the vegetables used to come through from the Baghdad suburbs, which are very violent now.
Our district itself is blocked by Righteous League militias and a military checkpoint. They have left one entrance for the commuters, and we need to have passes to move in and out. Every single person has to pay 15,000 Iraqi dinars to get the pass. […] I need to go and see my elderly mother who lives in another district in Baghdad but I cannot, I’m speaking to her by telephone only.
Hashim tells Mona that at least the electricity is coming in two-hour bursts, “which is a blessing as there were some days where there would be no power at all.
You look around and see your neighbours are disappearing either by car bombs or by travelling abroad. People are so tired and fed up of everything. You cannot have a rest in Iraq at all. It is good that we are still breathing as you are scared to take few steps out of your house. The streets are full of rubbish and you can see only black banners for people who have been killed in explosions or have been assassinated. A friend of mine, her bother is a doctor, he was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad Al-Jadidia. He was just finishing up at his clinic and was heading home when the explosion happened.
I wish I had left Iraq ages ago, I can’t cope with such fear and anxiety any more. I have heart problems and my husband is a retired teacher, he is not well either.
55% of Americans in a Reuters-IPSOS poll said they were against US intervention of any kind in Iraq, while only 20% supported any intervention. And the question appears to inspire bipartisan agreement, Reuters reports:
There was little disparity in the overall response among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Among those who supported some form of intervention, the most popular action was humanitarian aid for refugees from the conflict, and the second most popular was air strikes to support Iraqi government forces […]
Forty-five percent responded that the United States should not get involved in the conflict “no matter what,” 34 percent said Obama was setting appropriate conditions for engagement and 21 percent said U.S. involvement was needed to keep extremists from taking power.
Read the full piece here.
A satellite image of fire at the Baiji oil refinery. On Wednesday an eyewitness told the Guardian that two helicopters joined the fight against militants on Tuesday and hit a tank full of chemicals, setting the refinery on fire.
The Guardian’s Mona Mahmood (@monamood) has spoken with a resident of Hawija, a predominantly Arab town 40km from Kirkuk, about life in the town that has seen fierce fighting between Kurdish peshmerga forces and Isis militants in recent days:
Hussam Ali, 40, father of three
I was in hospital today to check on my friend who was wounded yesterday in a fight between rebels in Hawija and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The rebels were aiming to curtail Peshmerga attempts to spread to al-Multaqa, another Arab town 20km from Kirkuk despite an initial agreement that the town is under the control of the rebels. The fight led to the killing of three rebels and the wounding of 15. These Peshmerga criminal elements are giving us a hard time when we want to approach the city centre. They’ve even deprived Hawija of its share of fuel from the northern oil refinery.
Ali told Mona, that Isis militants are sending two or three tankers of fuel from Baiji refinery every day into Hawija.
Life is much better now in Hawija under the administration of the rebels than before. Malki’s military forces were dealing with us like chickens that have to go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 6am because of the two-year long curfew imposed on us. Look now, there is no curfew but security is stable, shops are open all day and the most important thing is, there are no sectarian detentions and no walls that made the town into a big prison. The rebels are teaming up with people in all domains. Most of the Hawija locals who fought the US forces few years ago are back now after being away for long time. […]
The only problem we have now is how to market our crops under the tough siege imposed on us by the Peshmerga. Hawija people live on their farms products, they used to sell their vegetables and fruits to different Iraqi towns and cities, now, they can’t do that any more.
President Obama said the US would build up its military assets in the region. Yesterday we published an AP-compiled list of those assets, mentioning six warships in the Persian Gulf and about 5,000 U.S. soldiers across the border in Kuwait.
That list did not capture the number of troops as just described by an unnamed US official to the New York Times:
How Nouri al-Maliki fell out of favour with the US
We pick up the story after the Maliki government’s 2011 refusal of a residual American troop presence in Iraq:
With much of the Sunni Arab world in uproar, Maliki wanted the safety in numbers that his Shia neighbours offered. While embracing Iran, Maliki put distance between his government and Iraq’s Sunni minority, arresting several tribal leaders, laying siege to a protest camp in Ramadi, and brazenly issuing an arrest warrant for the Sunni former vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi days after US forces left.
He set about co-opting key institutions left behind by the Americans; the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which was soon stacked with officials from his Dawa party, and Iraq’s elite special forces unit, which soon became his praetorian guard.
Some in Washington started believing that Maliki’s moves were consolidating power along nakedly sectarian lines. “It was more out of making sure that power could never be stripped from him,” said one senior US diplomat.
Another American official who acted as senior US adviser to the Iraqi government from 2004-11 said: “The only thing that I saw with my eyes that could be construed as sectarian was his appointments, especially in the military”. While they were not all sectarian, most were; and the competence of the candidate was not an issue.
Evermore disturbed, Washington protested loudly and made calls for political inclusiveness. But the former occupier no longer had the leverage – or apparently the will – to force Maliki to act.
Read the full report here, including this tidbit:
Iran has yet to declare its hand about who should lead Iraq. However, the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, long a kingmaker in Baghdad, has an increasingly dim view of Maliki. “He says the man’s an idiot,” a senior Iraqi politician who met Suleimani last week told the Guardian. “When he was asked about who should lead the country, he didn’t say a word.”
Here’s a summary of Obama’s statement and Q&A:
• Obama said the US would deploy up to 300 “military advisers” to Iraq but said “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq.”
• The US is conducting surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq “to get situational awareness,” Obama said. Some embassy staff is being shuffled.
• Obama said that to avoid “the abyss,” Iraq must form a new, inclusive government, in which Sunni, Shia and Kurdish groups are invested. “The fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said. He called on a new parliament to convene.
• Obama side-stepped a question about prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s leadership. He said that Iraq must pick its own leaders.
• Obama said he would think first about the US national security, but also that “We want to make sure we’re vindicating the enormous … sacrifice that was made by our troops” to build an open Iraqi society.
• The president said Iran could play a “constructive role” if it helped build an inclusive Iraqi government but that Tehran would only make things worse if it came in “as an armed force on behalf of the Shia”.
• “The one bit of encouraging news we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties say that they continue to be committed” to forming a national government, Obama said.
• US secretary of state John Kerry will travel to Europe and the Middle East next week to help build an international coalition to help Iraq, Obama said.
“Our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending,” which is that the government must be inclusive, Obama says:
If Iran is coming in only as an armed force on behalf of the Shia … then that probably worsens the situation.
Just as Iraq’s leaders have to make decisions, I think Iran has heard from us. We’ve indicated to them that it is important to avoid the kinds of steps that might encourage the kind of sectarian splits that might lead to civil war.
We have deep differences with Iran … on a whole host of issues. Obviously what’s happened in Syria is [partly] the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side … they could find themselves fighting in a whole lot of places.”
Obama says that’s probably not good for the Iranian people or economy, and they ‘probably recognize that.’
Obama: ‘the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance’
Obama: “Right now is a moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance and the test is going to be whether they can overcome …” sectarian divisions and form a unity government.
He says the US must ensure ISIL is not attaining “the capacity to threaten us directly – us or our partners.”
“The one bit of encouraging news we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties say that they continue to be committed” to forming a national government, Obama says.
As the prospects of civil war heighten, [there are] many Iraqi leaders stepping up and saying, let’s not plunge back into the abyss.’
But they don’t have a lot of time.
One of the messages we had was … get going on this government formation.”
Obama is asked whether the US isn’t rather powerless in Iraq. What’s the leverage?
The US provides assistance in good faith, the president replies:
We don’t have territorial ambitions. We’re not looking to control their assets or energy. We want to make sure we’re vindicating the enormous … sacrifice that was made by our troops in order to give them an opportunity … to build an open society.
At the same time they are a sovereign country. They have their own politics … Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there’s not going to be a simple military solution to this issue.
Obama is taking a broader view of the terrorist threat as the US sees it:
Rather than try to play Whack-a-Mole wherever these terrorist organizations pop up, what we do is have to build effective partnerships … we’ve got to shift to make sure we have coverage in the Middle East and North Africa … You look at a country like Yemen. There we do have a committed partner in president Hadi and his government. And we have been able to develop their capacities…
We need to have actual governments on the ground we could partner with.
Q: Does the expansion of the Syrian war into Iraq change your mind about the Syrian war?
That assessment about the dangers of what is happening in Syria existed since the very beginning,” Obama says. “The question has always been, is there the capacity of a moderate opposition … to absorb and counteract extremists?
And so, we have consistently provided that opposition with support. Oftentimes the challenge is if you have former farmers or teachers or pharmacists who now are taking up opposition against a battle-hardened regime with support from external actors, how quickly can you get them trained?
That continues to be a challenge. And even before … we had already tried to maximize what we could do to support a moderate opposition” to counteract Assad …”
Q: Do you wish you would have left a residual force in Iraq?
“Keep in mind, that wasn’t a decision made by me, that was a decision made by the Iraqi government,” Obama says. “We offered.”
“The Iraqi government, and prime minister Maliki, declined to provide us” with the required immunity to keep a force in place, Obama says.
Obama addresses the spectre of jihadists fighting in Iraq and then returning to Europe and the US and “creating a cadre that could harm us.”:
The initial effort for us to get situational awareness through the reconnaissance and surveillance that we’ve already done, coupled with our best people on the ground … starting with the perimeter around Baghdad to make sure that’s not overrun …
Asked about possible “mission creep,” the president says, “Let me repeat”:
American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kind of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq. Ultimately this is going to have to be solved by Iraqis.”
He says it’s in the US national interest not to see Iraq descend into civil war.
First question is on Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki.
“It’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders,” Obama says. “Part of what our patriots fought for … is the right of Iraqis to choose their own leaders.”
He acknowledges “deep divisions … and as long as those divisions continue, it’s going to be hard for an Iraqi central government” to direct those forces.
“It has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd all feel that they have an opportunity … to advance the political process.”
Obama says the wounds of Iraq, “vigorous debates and intense emotions,” are still raw.
“What’s clear is the need for the US to [hold a debate] before taking action abroad,” he says.
“The issue I keep front and center is, what is in the national security interests of the United States of America?”
Obama announces military ‘advisers’ for Iraq
Obama names five steps the US is taking.
1. We are working to secure our embassy and our personnel, he says. To relocate some and to better secure the facility.
2. Enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance, particularly of Isil, as he calls them.
3. Increased support to Iraqi forces, including joint operation centers to coordinate intelligence, and through new counterterrorism partnership fund, work with Congress to provide military assistance. Other assistance will include “a small number of additional American military advisers, up to 300,” to assist Iraqi operations.
“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” Obama says.
4. Additional US military assets in the region.
5. A diplomatic efforts to support stability. US secretary of state John Kerry will visit Europe and the Middle East.
Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together to [forge] a political plan for Iraq’s future,” Obama says. “National unity meetings have to go forward … the new parliament must convene as soon as possible.”
President Obama has begun speaking at the White House. You can watch his comments live on C-SPAN here.
The Associated Press moves another anonymously sourced report with more details about the anticipated deployment of 100 commandoes to Iraq “to advise and assist the Iraq forces”:
A U.S. official says the Obama administration is poised to announce it will send about 100 Army special forces members, divided into teams of about a dozen each, to advise and assist the Iraq forces.
There are already a handful of the special forces in Iraq that have been there as part of the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. They would likely be the first to be sent out as part of this plan, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly and thus talked on condition of anonymity. The other Green Berets would be brought in from around the region.
The commandos would not be fighting in direct combat, but could provide intelligence and greater insight into what the Iraqi units need.
The Associated Press has further reporting, drawing on anonymous officials, on what president Obama is expected to say. In short: 100 Green Berets, no immediate air strikes, no call for a Maliki resignation. AP:
President Barack Obama is also expected to announce Thursday that he is deploying about 100 Green Berets to Iraq to help train and advise Iraqi forces, according to a U.S. official. However, Obama does not plan to announce immediate U.S. airstrikes on Iraq, which have increasingly become less of a focus of deliberations in recent days.
Obama was not expected to publicly call for al-Maliki to resign and was instead likely to say that Iraqis must make their own political decisions. U.S. officials said there was concern within the administration that pushing al-Maliki too hard might stiffen his resolve to stay in office and drive him closer to Iran, which is seeking to keep the Shiite leader in power.
However the administration does want to see evidence of a leadership transition plan being put in place in Iraq. All of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the internal deliberations by name.
The Washington Post correspondent in Baghdad flags an admonishment by the Iraqi military spokesman: Do not trust cabbies.
Programming note: President Obama’s address has been delayed until 1.15pm ET… at least. More to come.
Iraq crisis Q&A
Have a question about what’s happening in Iraq? A comment?Guardian reporters, editors and contributors are taking both from readers now at this web page. Please give the forum a visit and add your insights and inquiries.
We’ll add responses from our panel at the end of the week. Thank you for your participation.
Ali Khedery has a provocative post on Foreign Policy’s Best Defense blog: “Mulling Iraq options: Begin by telling me which of these groups you want to bomb“:
As President Obama considers his options and consults with Congress, I ask my fellow Americans calling for immediate military action: who do you wanna bomb? Because, as you’ll see below, Iraq is a target-rich environment, where literally all factions have blood-soaked hands. These are the players actively fighting across Iraq today:
Khedery lists 14 groups, categorized as pro-Sunni or pro-Shia. The Sunni side includes ISIS, Jaish al-Islam, JRTN, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades, and moderate Sunni Arab tribal members. The Shia side includes the Iraqi government, the Quds Force, the Badr Brigade, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Youm al-Mawoud, Hezbollah Brigades, KSS, Harakat al-Nujaba, and Hezbollah.
“As you can see,” writes Khedery, “Iran has tens of thousands of loyal, capable, highly trained proxies available to them in Iraq, all of which were involved in attacking U.S. forces in Iraq during the war.”
Read the full piece here.
House speaker John Boehner has said he thinks the Obama administration needs to do more to combat terrorism. The AP reports:
Speaker John Boehner says he has long called on Obama to take more action against terrorism. He says with violence spreading in places like Iraq, Syria and Libya, it seems like in his words, “the wheels are coming off” the administration’s anti-terrorism efforts.
Boehner spoke to reporters shortly before Obama was scheduled to speak at the White House about his plans for Iraq. An offensive by Sunni militants there is threatening to push that country into a civil war.
Boehner also says that Obama must develop a strategy for combating terrorism in the entire Middle East, not just Iraq.
Obama is in a meeting with his national security team before his 12.30pm announcement, Guardian Washington correspondent Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) reports:
The meeting includes the chairman of the joints chief of staff, general Martin Dempsey, and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper.
The meeting got under way in the White House a few minutes ago, according to a pool report. It also includes vice president Joe Biden, secretary of state John Kerry, the defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, and several of the most senior Obama advisors, lawyers and staff.
As our live blog coverage continues, here’s a summary of where things stand:
• President Barack Obama was to speak at the White House about Iraq at 12.30pm ET. Forerunning reports said the US was sending 100 special forces troops to Iraq.
• Restiveness seemed to grow in the US with the government of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, but it was unclear whether the Obama administration would publicly call for Maliki’s exit.
• Maliki’s government has rejected calls for the prime minister to quit. His spokesman, Zuhair al-Nahar, said the west should focus instead on providing immediate military help to the Iraqi government.
• Iraqi security forces continued to fight militants at the Baiji oil refinery. Iraq’s oil ministry has threatened to sue news agencies who have reported that the refinery is under the control of Isis.
The AP and AFP back up CNN’s report that president Obama will announce he is sending 100 special forces troops to Iraq.
President Barack Obama is also expected to announce Thursday that he is deploying about 100 special operations forces to Iraq to help train and advise Iraqi forces, according to a U.S. official. The president has said he has no plans to send Americans to Iraq for combat missions.
The United States is considering deploying 100 special operations troops to advise the Iraqi army in its defense of Baghdad from Sunni extremists, a US defense official said Thursday.
The president is “leaning” toward a limited course of action that would “embed” the commandos already at the ready in the region with Iraqi forces but not call for US bombing raids, the official told AFP.
Maliki’s shuffling of his military appears to continue, with AFP reporting the prime minister has “ordered security officers back to active duty”:
“Officers from brigadier general and lower have been transferred to units according to their specialisation and classification,” Maliki said in a statement read on state television.
On Wednesday, Maliki announced that 59 military officers would be prosecuted for abandoning Mosul to the Isis advance. The move came a day after Maliki fired several senior security force commanders in connection with the military rout.
US officials are holding meetings with Iraqi leaders, including longtime conversational counterpart Ahmad Chalabi, to discuss a possible post-Maliki government, the New York Times reports:
Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.
Read the full report here.
Forty Indian construction workers abducted in Iraq have spoken with family members in India, AFP reports:
Armed militants abducted the workers on Monday from a stadium where they were working in the northern city of Mosul but no demands for ransom have been made, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told AFP.
The Indian citizens were being held together with other abducted foreigners and “every avenue will be pursued” to secure their release, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
“We have been informed by the Iraqi foreign ministry that they have tracked down the location where the Indian nationals are held,” Akbaruddin said at a briefing in New Delhi.
“It is unclear whether Obama or other administration officials would publicly call for al-Maliki to resign,” the Associated Press reports:
U.S. officials said there is concern within the administration that pushing al-Maliki too hard might stiffen his resolve to stay in office and drive him closer to Iran, which is seeking to keep the Shiite leader in power.
However, officials said, the administration does want to see evidence of a leadership transition plan being put in place in Iraq.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Iraqi leader Wednesday and emphasized the need for him to govern in an inclusive manner. Biden also spoke to Iraq’s Sunni parliamentary speaker and the president of Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region.
Obama to make White House address on Iraq
The White House has announced a briefing by president Obama to begin at 12.30pm ET. The usual daily White House briefing has been canceled.
CNN has reported that the US will deploy special forces troops to Iraq. It is unclear whether the deployment CNN mentions is in addition to or part of a contingent of up to 275 troops the White House announced on Tuesday would be sent to protect the embassy in Baghdad.
There were already a reported 160 troops in Iraq, including some 50 Marines and more than 100 Army soldiers. We’re working to confirm the details.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that volunteers who fight in “hot areas” with the country’s security forces will be given 750,000 Dinars ($644) per month, state television said on Thursday. Reuters reports:
Non-fighting volunteers will be paid 500,000 Dinars ($450) and all volunteers will be given an extra 125,000 Dinar ($107) food allowance per month, the statement said.
Insurgents took two cities in northern Iraq last week and many soldiers have fled their posts during the continuing offensive, straining the army.
The eagerness of former members of the president George W Bush administration and others who cheered the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to explain what has gone wrong now and to give advice about what to do next has sparked a lively debate over whether people who arguably were exactly wrong on the topic should be allowed to join the present discussion.
For a scathing roundup of the latest commentary from architects of the Iraq war you could read “The Neocon Surge: They are not, in fact, being greeted as liberators” in Politico magazine. For a defense of the right of the wrong to talk about Iraq check out Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, “Actually, let’s hear more from Dick Cheney on Iraq.”
The debate kicked into high gear after former vice president Dick Cheney published an op-ed saying
Fanar Haddad, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, sets out four reasons why getting rid of Maliki is not the answer to the crisis.
You can read his arguments in full in the Washington Post. Here’s No.1:
First, although this will be hard to believe for anyone outside the prime minister’s support base, Maliki commands considerable popularity. Indeed, the most recent elections clearly showed that he is the least unpopular Iraqi politician, with more than 720,000 personal votes and by far the largest parliamentary bloc. Even more baffling to the uninitiated, the current crisis is likely to have augmented his popularity, a result of existential fears if for no other reason.
Haddad goes on to point out practical obstacles to removing Maliki; to challenge the notion of an available quick fix between the government and Sunni factions; and to question the wisdom of switching leadership mid-crisis. Read the full piece here.
Iraq’s oil ministry threatens to sue over refinery reports
Iraq’s oil ministry has threatened to sue news agencies who have reported that the Baiji refinery is under the control of Isis.
In a statment it dennounced a number of agencies including AFP and Reuters. It said:
The ministry confirmed that the security forces are in control of the refinery and its surroundings vicinity and have stopped terrorists approaching. All claims made otherwise are incorrect.
Yesterday Reuters quoted a refinery employee who said that militants controlled 75% of the facility, a claim strenuously denied by the government.
Saudi Arabia has warned against foreign meddling in Iraq. Writing in the Telegraph, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saudi, said:
We oppose all foreign intervention and interference. There must be no meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, not by us or by the US, the UK or by any other government. This is Iraq’s problem and they must sort it out themselves. Any government that meddles in Iraq’s affairs runs the risk of escalating the situation, creating greater mistrust between the people of Iraq – both Sunni and Shia.
Instead, we urge all the people of Iraq, whatever their religious denominations, to unite to overcome the current threats and challenges facing the country.
In that NBC interview Kerry also insisted the US was not seeking to prop up the Maliki government.
“This is not about Maliki,” AFP quoted Kerry saying.
Nothing that the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister Maliki. It is focused on the people of Iraq.
Here’s where things currently stand:
- The US is reported to have demanded the resignation of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as a condition for US military intervention. The Wall Street Journal says the US has signalled its desire for unity government in Iraq without Maliki.
- Maliki’s government has rejected calls for the prime minister to quit. His spokesman, Zuhair al-Nahar, said the west should focus instead on providing immediate military help to the Iraqi government.
- Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says his government accepts the need for a “radical” political solution to the country’s crisis. Speaking at conference of foreign ministers in Jeddah he said: “The military solution is not enough. We agree and confess that there should be a political and radical solution.” US vice president Joe Biden has spoken to three key Iraqi leaders to urge an inclusive government.
- Government forces say they have taken control of Baiji oil refinery, but insurgents were still inside the complex and sporadic clashes persisted, according to reports. “Iraqi forces are still inside the refinery, and they control it,” a worker told AFP.
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Iraq crisis: Obama announces increase in US military aid to combat Isis surge – live have 6267 words, post on www.theguardian.com at June 20, 2014. This is cached page on ReZone. If you want remove this page, please contact us.