News / Middle East

    Kerry: Militants Pose 'Existential' Threat to Iraq

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pauses as he speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in the International Zone in Baghdad, June 23, 2014
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pauses as he speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in the International Zone in Baghdad, June 23, 2014
    VOA News
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged "intense" support for Iraq against the "existential threat" posed by a major militant offensive pushing toward Baghdad from the north and west.

    Kerry pressured Iraq's top Shi'ite leaders on Monday to create a more inclusive government in order to face down the insurgents, who have captured vast territories in northern and western Iraq.

    The United States' "support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together, it will be effective," Kerry told journalists in Baghdad.

    “The future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq's leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL....Not next week, not next month, but now,” he said.

    He said ISIL's "campaign of terror, their grotesque acts of violence and repressive ideology pose a grave danger to Iraq's future. ISIL is not, as it claims, fighting on behalf of Sunnis. ISIL is not fighting for a stronger Iraq. Quite the contrary, ISIL is fighting to divide Iraq and to destroy Iraq. So, this is a critical moment for Iraq's future."

    The danger to Iraq, he said, is dire.

    "It is a moment of decision for Iraq's leaders," he said. "Iraq faces an existential threat and Iraq's leaders have to meet that threat."
     
    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 23, 2014.Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 23, 2014.
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    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 23, 2014.
    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 23, 2014.

    Al-Maliki under pressure

    The top U.S. diplomat made an unannounced trip to Baghdad and met for more than an hour and a half with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and also with a key Shi'ite cleric and the two highest-ranking Sunni lawmakers.
     
    As he walked to his motorcade after meeting the Iraqi leader, Kerry said, "That was good." But details of the meeting were not disclosed.
     
    The prime minister's office said that al-Maliki also emphasized to Kerry that the advance of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) "represents a threat not only to Iraq but to regional and international peace."

    The Iraqi leader called for U.S. airstrikes against the insurgents, which the U.S. is considering but has not agreed to.

    Al-Maliki has come under increasing political pressure from both Sunni and Shi'ite critics to step down. Neighboring Iran, however, has shown no sign of dropping support for him and he insists that he will work to form a new government by a July 1 constitutional deadline.

    Departing Sunni Parliament Speaker Osama Nujeifi, who has been pushing for al-Maliki to step down, says the insurgency needs to be “confronted through direct military operations,” as well a political reforms to “inject a new hope into our own people, so that they can support the political process and the unity of Iraq.”

    Many Sunnis, upset over being politically marginalized by the Shi'a-dominated government in recent years, have been joining ISIL militants.

    Nujeifi, with whom Secretary Kerry spoke, says ISIL militants “pose a threat to the entire world.”

    Nujeifi's brother Athil is the governor of Mosul, which the militants overran last week.
     
    Pressure on Iraq

    Kerry also discussed Iraq and the threat posed by ISIL on Sunday, as he met with his counterparts in Egypt and Jordan.

    Washington wants Arab states to bring pressure on Iraq's leaders to speed up government formation, which has made little headway since April elections, and has tried to convince them ISIL poses as much of a threat to them as to Iraq.
     
    Secretary of State Kerry’s Trip to the Middle East and Europe June 22 – 27
    Secretary of State Kerry’s Trip to the Middle East and Europe June 22 – 27

    Kerry warned all countries, particularly in the Gulf, that "there is no safety margin whatsoever in funding a group like ISIL."

    He said the group “should not be allowed to have any safe haven.”

    The group has commandeered an enormous quantity of cash and resources as a result of the advance, bolstering coffers that were already the envy of militant groups around the world, the French news agency AFP reported.

    U.S. leaders have stopped short of calling for Maliki to step down, but there is little doubt that they feel he has squandered the opportunity to rebuild Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

    "The United States would like to see the Iraqi people find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq," Kerry told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.

    Iraqi troops struggle

    Iraqi security forces are struggling to hold their ground in the face of an insurgent onslaught that has seized major areas of five provinces, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sparked fears the country could be torn apart.

    Al-Maliki's security spokesman said Monday "hundreds" of soldiers had been killed since ISIL launched its offensive on June 9.

    The announcement on television by Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta is the most specific information provided so far by the government on losses sustained by the security forces.

    Iraqi security forces have showed little resistance to the onslaught of the militants, often fleeing their positions in northern and western Iraq and abandoning their weapons.

    The ISIL fighters have threatened to attack Baghdad, but a senior U.S. State Department official said Monday that the U.S. believes their advance toward the capital has been slowed.

    The U.S. is sending 300 military advisers to Baghdad, but has ruled out the return of combat troops. 

    U.S. President Barack Obama warned that the insurgents' strength could grow and destabilize other countries in the region, but he said the U.S. would not "play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up."

    On Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei objected to any U.S. intervention in Iraq, saying that the Baghdad government was capable on its own of ending the conflict with the insurgents.

    Militants seize border crossings

    The militants are continuing their charge, overrunning the Al-Waleed border crossing with Syria, officers said on Monday, AFP reported.

    The capture of the post means all official crossings with Iraq's neighbor to the west are outside government control, and increases the militants' ability to bring men and materiel across the border from Syria, AFP said.

    Sunni tribes took control of two border crossings on Sunday - one with Syria and another with Jordan - after Iraq's army pulled out of the area following a clash with rebels, Iraqi and Jordanian intelligence sources said.

    The militants have also taken control of four towns in Iraq's western Anbar province since Friday.
     
    The move came after Sunni militants overran posts further north along Iraq's border with Syria, pursuing their goal to form a “caliphate” straddling both countries that has raised alarm across the Middle East and in the West.
     
    It was not immediately clear if the tribesmen's seizure of the Iraqi-Jordanian Turaibil crossing was part of the broader ISIL advance, which has also helped the militant group secure supply lines.
     
    Jordanian army sources said their troops had been on a state of alert along the 112-mile border with Iraq for several days, to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats.”
      
    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei objected Sunday to any U.S. intervention in Iraq, saying that the Baghdad government was capable on its own of ending the conflict with the insurgents.
     
    After his stop in Iraq, Kerry is due to travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, and State Department officials say they expect to have sideline discussions there with European partners about the situation in Iraq.

    VOA's Edward Yeranian in Cairo contributed to this report. Some information was provided by Reuters and AFP.
     
    • Secretary Kerry Greets Crew of Air Force Plane Flying Him to Iraq.
    • Secretary Kerry Greets Crew of Air Force Plane Flying Him to Iraq.
    • Secretary Kerry Talks With Traveling Press Corps En Route to Iraq.
    • Secretary Kerry Looks Out Over Iraq on Flight Into Embassy Baghdad.
    • Helicopter Flying Secretary Kerry Into Embassy Baghdad Silhouetted on Banks of Tigris River.
    • Secretary Kerry Arrives at Embassy Baghdad for Meetings With Iraqi Leaders.
    • Ambassador Beecroft Welcomes Secretary Kerry to Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Beechcroft, Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk Walk Across Embassy Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry Receives Briefing From Top Advisers in Iraq.
    • Iraqi Foreign Minister Escorts Secretary Kerry to Meeting With Prime Minister al-Maliki.
    • Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki Greets Secretary Kerry Upon Arrival for Meeting in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry Sits With Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki Before Meeting in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry, Other Top Iraqi Advisers Sit Before Meeting With Prime Minister al-Maliki.
    • Secretary Kerry Meets With Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Leader Hakim in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry Chats With Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Leader Hakim, Other Officials in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry Sits With Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Leader Hakim in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry is Greeted by Media Adviser to Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry Meets With Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi in Baghdad.
    • Secretary Kerry, Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi and Teams Sit For Meeting in Baghdad.

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    by: Robert Ezergailis from: Canada
    June 25, 2014 12:41 AM
    John Kerry apparently fails to recognize the fact that the existence of Iraq does not really matter as such. What matters are the existential concerns of the Sunni of Iraq who for good reason fear that their existences are imperiled by the Shiites, and the Shiites who for good reason fear that their existences are in turn imperiled by the Sunni.

    The levels of known oppression, fear, and deprivation of many among the Sunni, and blamed on the Shiites, particularly the Maliki government, having become severe enough to raise the level of militancy in the region to its current level. In fact the flag of Iraq means absolutely nothing to either side, existentially. Mr. Kerry needs to learn something about how national identities, and their symbols, are dealt with within Mideast culture, and particularly Islamic belief and practice, before worrying about the existential problem of Iraq, which to many there is of less value than a whore.

    There are a goodly number of people there who would contend that United States concern and support for the existential continuance of Iraq, as a geopolitical entity, is in fact merely Washington's support for a whore and of no more consequence than that. He would be very surprised how common that viewpoint is.

    by: James R. Pannozzi
    June 23, 2014 6:03 PM
    The militants pose an overwhelming threat to the entire imbecilic strategy which has characterized our foreign policy, and brought to new levels of stupidity by President Bush Jr..

    The time has come to fire the Generals, the Pentagon planners, the contractors, the lobbyists, and to finally make the admission that this foreign policy is a disaster whose end result is to make the enemy stronger. Coupled with this, reforms against an out of control government agency, the NSA, have already begun and are but the tip of the iceberg on what needs to be done. Nonsense such as "counter insurgency" and other military "Alice in %erland" fantasies need to be exposed and ridiculed for the failed rationalizations that they are.

    A complete strategic reorganization of our economy, business interests, trade "deals", foreign policy, immigration policies and, most importantly of all, the overthrow of corporatists and special interests in control of our government is now called for.

    The 2010 elections and the recent political demise of Representative Cantor..and the coming political defeat of "Mitch" McConnell..are all indicators that the time has come for both parties to admit their mistakes, kick out both the radicals and, worse, the corporatists masquerading as loyal party members, and begin anew to rebuild the confidence of the American people and restore their government to them.

    These developments do not bode well for the political futures of Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Jebediah Bush, Senator Rubio and many others. The jig is up, and the the words that end the game are...."WE KNOW".

    by: Brad Arnold
    June 23, 2014 5:16 PM
    ISIS represents an "existential threat" to the Shiia dominated Iraqi government in the south. "The United States' "support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together, it will be effective," Kerry told journalists in Baghdad."

    Yet, the US spent over one hundred billion dollars equipping and training the Iraqi military, and it has crumbled in the face of ISIS attacks. I sure would like to know what kind of "intense and sustained" support the US plans to give the Iraqi government (that it hasn't already given) that will halt, let alone reverse, ISIS victories.

    Hasn't Kerry already said that the US will not put substantial boots on the ground, and that US air superiority won't solve the ISIS problem? Oh, now I get it - during an existential crisis we ought to cut Maliki's head off, and somehow serve as a catalyst to help Iraq form a 'national unity government' that they've been unable to do for nearly a decade, that's the ticket. Hope is not a strategy.

    by: Earl from: Folsom, CA
    June 23, 2014 5:07 PM
    imho
    Step 1) Use the 300 US Military Advisers to support an environment to allow Iraq to break up into three separate countries, like they existed before Britian/France made a fatal mistake of drawing the present day border around these three warring tribes. They killed each other as separate countries, why is Mr. Kerry trying to have them ot exist as one? Please stop wasting my American taxpayer money, 1/3 of my annual income.
    Step2) Support the Kurds in forming their own country government in the north, draw a clear boundary around the Sunnis in the middle, and allow the Shi'ites to form their own country and government in the south. Iran should like this.
    Step 3) Work with the Kurdish country/government in the north. Iran to the east, the Shi'ite country in the south and Jordan on the west to surround ISIL on all four sides in the new Sunni country in the middle.
    Step 4) Create the largest refugee program in history with the UN and allied countries to allow innocent people a chance to leave the central new Sunni country by a certain date.
    Step 5) Support the combined forces of new military groups combining those existing/new countries surrounding ISIL to go in and kill them and everyone they are using as shields. A new and different war tactic. I hate it and don't want any innocents killed, but allowing ISIL to continue to grow to me is the worst of two bad options. I am not one to hurt anybody, but I hear war is messy. I will gladly pay $7+ / gallon gas as my part in America to put an end to or strictly confine this unconscionable ruthless barbaric group who calls themselves ISIL.

    by: robertsgt40 from: texas
    June 23, 2014 4:20 PM
    "Militants"? Would that include everyone that doesn't want us there?

    by: hitman from: us
    June 23, 2014 3:49 PM
    Lurch:"You rang?"

    by: Mehtasaab from: Washington, DC
    June 23, 2014 3:33 PM
    Actually Iraq's wan unnecessary and US lost billions of American tax payers money. Actually there was no WMD. Actually Saddam was helping us to stop Iranian revolution to expand to middle east and Saudi Arabia. I have informed White House before that Iran is a Major player. Keep eyes on Iran. Anyway there is a option for US to hire Pakistani Army and let them to fight for USA. They need dollar and US needs people to fight. ISIL and ISI both can fight each other.
    In Response

    by: Bick from: USA
    June 23, 2014 10:42 PM
    The fact you think Iran will start to pull influence or threaten Saudi Arabia in any sense shows your lack of understanding with concerns to the Middle East. Not to mention the ballistic missiles that Saddam produced that violated UN Sanction 1441 and the delivery vehicles for chemical agents. Do some research further than 5 minutes on Google and get back to us.

    by: Sensi
    June 23, 2014 3:30 PM
    "Kerry warned all countries, particularly in the Gulf, that "there is no safety margin whatsoever in funding a group like ISIL."

    US allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding ALL the Sunni terrorism worldwide (Al Qaeda, Talibans, Al Nusra, ISIL, Chechens, etc), but yet like for the Egyptian military junta dictatorship among their allies, the USA will gave then an all symbolic and half-hearten "warning" yet will still send them tons of military equipment and funding to continue their nauseous misdeeds, with the Western Nations crass complicity or feigning to look the other way...

    I am ashamed of the Western nations realpolitik incestuous and criminal hypocrisy.

    by: Steve from: Berkeley
    June 23, 2014 1:02 PM
    Mr Kerry sound desperate and like a fool. We've heard this victory chant for many years. victory is around the corner they shouted. Mission accomplished a President said. A little boy standing in a crowd after a particularly brutal bombing that killed his family asked why America had done this to his country. Killed a million people. Created sectarian hatred and violence. Destroyed the most secular country in the middle east. "It's not our fault said Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, George Bush, the Saudis, and many others.

    Well whose fault was it? Did it fall out of the sky? Was it an accident we have already spent 3 trillion precious dollars, had 4000 of our soldiers killed and ten times that number maimed. It is the sound of failure. Let's get out now. Oh but the drooling over the oil in Iraq and how it will make some rich is what perpetuates our presence. Now Obama and Kerry want to send more troops and reignite our presence in a new war. The best answer is NUTS. Get out now while the getting is good because it will only get worse. We tore apart Iraq, its army, its civil society in a misguided deBathatization and now we are paying the price for our stupidity. And stupid just won't cut it.
    In Response

    by: mari from: California
    June 23, 2014 3:57 PM
    This is a religious war...we have no business being there. Let them kill each other; that's what's needed. Stop intervening when there is no direct threat to our nation! We can no longer be the world police force.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 23, 2014 11:15 AM
    Maliki in Iraq, and Assad in Syria, face a Sunni Muslim religious (ISIL) call to arms, against all other religions, with the sole purpose of establishing a religious Sunni Muslim Caliphate, (and), no Shia Muslim led government, (Iraq or Syria), will get Sunni Muslims in their countries, to fight against this Sunni Muslim (ISIL) religious call to arms, to form a Sunni Muslim Caliphate.... (Believe it)..

    HEAR THE SILENCE? -- from the Sunni Muslim religious leaders, government leaders, or monarchies, in condemning the (ISIL) Sunni Muslims, killing Shia Muslim and other religions, while trying to establish a Sunni Muslim Caliphate? -- To the Shia Muslims, Christians and other religions, the (ISIL) are terrorists, (but), to the Sunni Muslims, the (ISIL) is a Sunni Muslim religious call to arms, and trying to form a Sunni Muslim Caliphate, (and), other Sunni Muslims will answer the call, and others won't resist them for religious reasons, (but), none of them will fight against them, for a Shia Muslim led government...
    In Response

    by: NoMoreWar from: California
    June 23, 2014 3:29 PM
    Your comments are very difficult to understand because of the way you write. That is too bad because I had the feeling you had something interesting and important to say. I read your comments three times in order to comprehend. But I could not. Please try to write in a clear and normal manner. Thank you.
    In Response

    by: Kim from: usa
    June 23, 2014 12:59 PM
    You are certainly warped! Start reading alternative media to get the truth!!
    Comments page of 2
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