News / Middle East

    Obama Sends 200 More Troops to Iraq

    Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa, June 29, 2014.
    Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa, June 29, 2014.
    VOA News

    U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized sending 200 more troops to Iraq to bolster security at the U.S. Embassy and Baghdad's international airport.

    Obama on Monday informed Congress of his decision in a letter.  He said the newest deployment also will include helicopters and unmanned drones.

    Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the troops already have arrived in Iraq.  They will join the 275 troops sent to protect the embassy earlier this month.

    These forces are separate from the up to 300 military advisers the president authorized to assist Iraq as it battles an invading army of jihadists that has taken over major cities and threatens the capital in Baghdad.

    The latest announcement will bring to nearly 800 the number of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    ISIL Declares Islamic State in Iraq, Syria

    Iraqi warplanes carried out airstrikes overnight on the northern city of Tikrit as they battle to regain control from Sunni militants who have declared the formation of an Islamic state across areas of Iraq and Syria.

    Fighting continued Monday in Tikrit, one of several cities where militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control in a surge beginning in early June.

    FILE - The official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.FILE - The official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
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    FILE - The official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
    FILE - The official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    On Sunday, ISIL declared in an audio statement posted online that its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the leader of a new caliphate - a historical term to denote a sovereign state for the Muslim faithful. The term was last widely recognized to describe the government of the Ottoman Empire, which fell after World War I.

    The group said its flag flies from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq.

    ISIL was once al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq, but the terror group's leaders disowned ISIL earlier this year for its desire to carve out a caliphate and refusing to obey orders.

    Al-Qaida's official affiliate in Syria joined in January with Islamist and mainstream Syrian rebels to drive ISIL fighters from the key northern city of Aleppo and several border towns.

    Military officials say the main ground operation near Tikrit started Saturday with heavy fighting between ISIL rebels and Iraqi special forces, as Iraqi gunships and armor attacked from the south.

    Experts sceptical

    Former U.S. Ambassador Richard Murphy tells VOA that the declaration of a caliphate by ISIL was a "bold move, typical of the flamboyance it has shown on both the public relations and military sides in recent weeks." But, he points out, "the risk is that it will expose the fissures in its support which has propelled it on the battle field.

    He argues that the "there is no way that the former Ba'athists [who are fighting alongside ISIL] will welcome back the caliphate," and that "this move may activate many Iraqis and Syrians... who still have pride in their state.....to [turn] against [ISIL]... or to shrink its support."

    Geopolitical analyst Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, tells VOA a self-proclaimed state will have little of the trappings of sovereignty if none of its neighbors or world powers recognize it.

    "A non-state actor cannot declare itself a state.  There must be recognition by the United Nations, by the international community [of] these borders in order for the state to survive as a state and be treated accordingly.  Unless there is a conference called by the superpowers to talk about redrawing borders, we cannot expect to see the birth of a new entity,” says Kahwaji.

    Kahwaji adds that the current border arrangement, often referred to as the Sykes-Picot agreement, was drawn up during WWI by the superpowers of the day, France and Britain.  He also stresses that the important energy resources of the region and the various oil and gas pipelines that connect autonomous areas and states will play an important role in any change in borders.

    Border crossing

    Also Monday, footage released by Iraqi state TV claimed to show Iraqi forces back in control of a border crossing with Jordan, a week after it was seized by Sunni militants, the Associated Press reported.

    The footage showed security forces on Sunday holding guns in the air and waving flags in front of a sign purporting to be the Turaibil crossing with Jordan.

    The footage also claimed to show forces on patrol as trucks drove through the crossing.

    Sunni militants originally captured the border crossing on 22 June, as they pressed on with their offensive in one of Iraq's most restive regions. 

    Officials said the militants managed to capture the crossing after government forces there pulled out.

    The United States sent 300 military personnel to Iraq earlier this month to strengthen government security forces and help establish joint operation centers to combat the far-reaching Sunni offensive.

    U.S. advisers are also flying armed drones in Iraqi airspace to protect the U.S. contingent.

    Separately Sunday, as militants push to alter the region's geopolitical boundaries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Iraqi Kurdish statehood. Netanyahu made the comments during a speech to a Tel Aviv think tank.

    Iraqi Kurds have long-voiced aspirations for independence, while conceding that the goal is not realistic in the region's current state of upheaval.

    Neighboring Turkey, with its own large minority Kurd population, and Western governments remain opposed the breakup of Iraq. 

    Refugees

    More than 1,000 families have taken refuge in a camp for internally displaced persons in Diyala province in Iraq after feeling fighting between Sunni militants and Iraqi forces near the city of Baqouba.

    "I took my children and fled," said Limya Hussein in the camp in Khanaqin, a town 140 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.

    "I couldn't stay there because I am afraid to be killed," she added.

    The flow of displaced persons began weeks ago and has showed no signs of stopping.

    Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some information provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

    • Members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa, Iraq, June 29, 2014.
    • Iraqi troops monitor an area west of the shrine city of Karbala, in central Iraq, June 29, 2014.
    • Iraqi federal police officers patrol in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib suburb, June 28, 2014.
    • Mourners carry the coffin of a Shi'ite volunteer who joined the Iraqi army and was killed during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Najaf, Iraq, June 28, 2014.
    • People inspect buildings damaged by an Iraqi government airstrike in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, June 28, 2014.
    • Smoke is seen after airstrikes by the Iraq military in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, June 28, 2014.
    • Kurdish security forces fire a multiple rocket launcher during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Jalawla, Diyala province, Iraq, June 29, 2014.
    • Iraqi security forces patrol after clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Dalli Abbas in Diyala province, Iraq, June 28, 2014.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: curt from: Alaska USA
    July 01, 2014 9:14 PM
    You break it You own it. Where are those pesky WMD's. The CIA supplied both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein with weaponry including the chemicals Hussein used on the Kurds and the Iranians when he invaded the Iranian oilfields.
    If anything do an investigation and prosecute anyone who lied, and protected the liars. The attempted theft of the Iraqi oilfields resulted in the deaths of almost 5000 American military, thousands of mercenaries masquerading as contractors and over half a million Iraqis. So our American politicians with their legislative and investment support and the Bush and Obamas administrations are guilty also, of theft and murder

    by: Borders from: Japan
    July 01, 2014 3:22 AM
    The borders in the region were drawn up by the superpowers of the time during WWI. Why? Because they wanted instability in the region in order to be able to intervene in 'support of democracy'. They couldn't call it 'colonialization' because their official war goals of WWI included sovereignity of poeple in their own countries.
    This system of borders was set up to be instable - therefore Iraq includes Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites, people who historically don't get along too well and seek to dominate government, repressing the other two groups. For that reason, Iraq required a strong-armed Dictator to keep the country together ever since the borders were drawn up.
    So if you don't want to have a Saddam Hussein-style dictator it only makes sense to split the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish countries and draw borders where they actually make sense.
    Also, I do believe that if a majority of people in a place decides to form a state, as the Kurds are already doing in northern Iraq, they can have one. If the international community doesn't like that, they don't have to recognize the state or trade with it - but in order to actually dissolve that state, what is the UN or the US going to do about it? Invade again? Just refer to the post titled 'Not Again' and you will see that public opinion, especially in the US would not support that. What else could the UN or anyone else do about that state?

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    June 30, 2014 11:48 PM
    200 additional valiant US soldiers, I just hope that this is not the usual slippery slope to full involvement of the US and its Western allies in another useless war, with a known to fail strategy. You don't win wars by sacrificing your people, when you have the tools to not involve ground forces.
    The previous military strategies used in the various past wars, using boots on the ground for almost the last 70 years, failed to achieve stability. Let us hope this is not a new attempt to gain a victory using the same methods and tools that failed in the past. Regional forces should own the ground portion of the battlefield/battlespace, not the US or its Western allies.
    There is no question that ISIS/ISIL needs to be put out of business, but not using the same failed strategies and tactics.

    by: Suleman from: kolkata India
    June 30, 2014 4:07 PM
    AT LAST THERE IS A PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE SHELTER FROM PERCUSSION ASAD REGIME AND MALIKI

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 30, 2014 12:21 PM
    MY OPINION -- The Sunni Muslim (ISIL) "Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi, swore in the name of Allah, that he'd conquer Bagdad and return the (black flags and banners) of the Sunni Muslim Abbasid Bagdad Caliphate, and kill all the Shia Muslims who he calls, "The Filthy Ones" that should be wiped off the earth.... (and he lied, didn't he?)

    AND NOW? --- The "Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi followers, now give al-Baghdadi the symbolic religious title, the Sunni Muslim Caliph, of the Caliphate of the whole Islamic world?.... and the Sunni Muslims are rushing from around the world, to his (black flags and banners) to swear their (Bay'ah) oath of alliance to the Caliph "The Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi and fight to establish his Caliphate, (wherever it'll be?).... Saudi Arabia and the cities of MECCA and MEDINA, I think he now promises?

    TO SOME SUNNI MUSLIMS, the symbolic religious title of "the Caliph of the Islamic world" will mean something, and to others, it'll mean nothing but arrogance, or insanity, who's not one of the "rightly guided".... (and most were assassinated, weren't they?)

    by: Hamik C Gregory1 from: Kings Beach, CA
    June 30, 2014 8:09 AM
    They can not be an Islamic state because they do not have the Islamic Civilization! Medieval European style state religious fraud is more like it.
    In Response

    by: Ali baba from: new york
    June 30, 2014 9:19 AM
    It a set back for all people. and it will be totally destroyed very soon . similar to Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. The west has made serious mistake. We should not compromise with radical Muslim country such as Saudi Arabia. it seems we do not learn lesson from 9/11 tragedy. the 19 terrorist whom from the hypocrite kingdom .this kingdom and other supporters want to celebrate the Islamic empire that extend from Indian ocean to Atlantic ocean and people are shouting ( Islam is our religion ,Quran in the holy book .jihad is the way of life) . It is unfolding tragedy for the poor Christian whom live in Iraq and face the worst persecution in Christian history

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