THE PENTAGON —
Sunni militants bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate are putting pressure on Baghdad. It has nervous Iraqi officials looking for help anywhere they can find it, even if it means turning away from the United States.
In the skies over Baghdad, there are signs of hope - not from the U.S., but from the Russians.
For weeks, Iraqi officials have simmered over a lack of U.S. airstrikes against the militants.
In Washington, Iraqi ambassador Lukman Faily made no apologies for seeking help elsewhere.
“We have a need. There is a void. If the U.S. can’t fill that void, whomever is available - including Russia - then they are welcome to fill that void,” said Faily.
The safety of Baghdad and its surroundings has been a growing concern, and U.S. military officials acknowledge the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is posing problems by its “sheer presence.”
“We continue to see ISIL putting pressure on Baghdad from the north and the west. That hasn’t let up,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.
ISIL continued its show of force across the border in Syria, where it paraded captured weapons while an audio recording of its leader, posted on the Internet, called on Muslims to join his self-declared caliphate.
“I understand they’ve declared this caliphate. But declaring it doesn’t make it so,” said Kirby.
Still, the U.S isn’t taking any chances, saying 300 new troops being sent to Baghdad will have the support of drones and Apache attack helicopters to protect the embassy, facilities at the Baghdad airport and personnel.
As for Iraq’s allegations the U.S. isn’t doing enough, Pentagon officials say U.S. military advisers are still assessing the threat and Iraq’s needs and that the Iraqis can talk to whomever they like as long as those countries do nothing to further inflame sectarian tensions.