Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Congress Wednesday that the Iraqi government has requested U.S. airstrikes to help combat ISIL-led advances.
“We have a request from the Iraqi government for airpower,” Dempsey said. (Defense News, 19 June)
The Pentagon has basing arrangements with numerous countries throughout the Middle East, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Dozens of Air Force fighters, tankers, bombers, transports, and an array of UAVs are already based or rotating through the region, Defense News reported.
Meanwhile, officials told Fox News that the U.S. is already flying surveillance missions over Iraq an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
President Obama on Wednesday met with top Congressional leaders to review the U.S. efforts to “strengthen the capacity of Iraq’s security forces to confront the threat from [ISIL], including options for increased security assistance,” the White House said. (AP/Fox, 18 June)
Obama is also pressing the Iraqi government to become more inclusive and bring in broad Sunni participation in the affairs of the state. Observers are generally skeptical that Maliki could form a unity government after eight years of divisive and sectarian rule.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni, said Wednesday he is being sidelined by Maliki.
“If you ask me did I take a real power-sharing during my presence in the government, I say definitely no,” al-Mutlak told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from Baghdad. “We were almost isolated from the decisions, especially regarding the security issue.”
UPDATE: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is interested in communicating with Iran on the crisis in Iraq.
“We are interested in communicating with Iran. That the Iranians know what we're thinking, that we know what they're thinking and there is a sharing of information so people aren't making mistakes,” Kerry said in an interview with NBC News. (NBC, 18 June)
Photo credit: gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress Iraq is seeking U.S. airstrikes to battle the growing violence led by ISIL. (Chip Somodeville/Getty Images/Defense News)