Friday, August 15, 2014

Governor of Sunni province in Iraq says US promised air support to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Reuters

8/14/14, "Iraq's Maliki finally steps aside, paving way for new government," Reuters, by Raheem Salman and Michael Georgy

"Before Maliki's announcement, a leading figure in the Sunni minority told Reuters he had been promised U.S. help to fight the Islamic State militants.

Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, the governor of the Sunni heartland province of Anbar, told Reuters his request for help, made in meetings with U.S. diplomats and a senior military officer, included air support against the militants who have a tight grip on large parts of his desert province and northwestern Iraq. 

Such a move could revive cooperation between Sunni tribes, the Shi'ite-led authorities and U.S. forces that was credited with thwarting al Qaeda in Iraq several years ago.

But the U.S. State Department played down Dulaimi’s statement.

"We’ve continued meeting with a range of officials to talk through what the needs might be - the security needs - to fight ISIL [ISIS] across the board,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington.

Asked if Dulaimi was correct that the United States had made a commitment, Harf said she had no details. "We’re having conversations about what it (any security assistance) might look like in the future, but nothing concrete beyond that," she said.

Dulaimi said in a telephone interview: "Our first goal is the air support. Their technology capability will offer a lot of intelligence information and monitoring of the desert and many things which we are in need of.

"No date was decided but it will be very soon and there will be a presence for the Americans in the western area."

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that U.S. troops planning an evacuation of refugees further north were standing down as U.S. air strikes and supply drops had broken the "siege of Mount Sinjar," where thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority had taken refuge from the militants.

Obama said some of the U.S. personnel sent to draw up plans for the evacuation of the Yazidis would soon leave Iraq.

Disowned by al Qaeda as too radical after it took control of large parts of Syria, Islamic State capitalised on its Syrian territorial gains and sectarian tensions in Iraq to gain control of Falluja and Anbar's capital Ramadi early this year....

Seizing the capital, Baghdad, would be difficult because of the presence of special forces and thousands of Shi'ite militias who have slowed down the Islamic State elsewhere.

But a foothold just near the capital could make it easier for the IS to carry out suicide bombings, deepen sectarian tensions and destabilise Iraq.

On Thursday, Islamic State militants massed near the town of Qara Tappa, 120 km (75 miles) north of Baghdad, security sources and a local official said, in an apparent bid to broaden their front with Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

The movement around Qara Tappa suggests they are becoming more confident and seeking to grab more territory closer to the capital after stalling in that region.

"The Islamic State is massing its militants near Qara Tappa," said one of the security sources. "It seems they are going to broaden their front with the Kurdish fighters.""


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