US weighs options in Iraq

By Michael Hernandez, Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"This current government in Iraq has never fulfilled the commitments it made to bring a unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shi'a"

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. is reviewing its responses to the rising tide of militant Sunni insurgency in Iraq led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL.

The militant group has taken over two major cities in Iraq’s north in June alone -- Mosul and Tikrit -- and had previously taken over much of western Iraq’s Anbar Province in late December.

ISIL's rapid advances are due, in part, to the Iraqi government’s failure to govern inclusively, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

"This current government in Iraq has never fulfilled the commitments it made to bring a unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shi'a," Hagel said while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Wednesday. 

"We have worked hard with them within the confines of our ability to help them do that, but we can't dictate to them."

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said that he has "frequently" warned Iraq’s leadership of the dangers posed by division within the country. Still, the Iraqi government has resorted to "changing military leadership, cronyism, just all forms of sectarianism that have led us to where we are today" as ISIL has risen over the past year.

Dempsey’s warnings were met by what he described as "a volume of conspiracy theories."

He acknowledged to lawmakers that the U.S. has a request for air power from the Iraqi government. It is unclear if the administration is willing to follow through with air support, however.  

It is still unclear what role regional players will have in any U.S. response. 

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham cautiously acknowledged that the U.S. may have to talk with Iran on security issues, which Hagel agreed with.

John Boehner, the U.S. speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters at a media stakeout Wednesday that he does "absolutely not" agree with cooperating with Iran to end Iraq’s ongoing tumult.

"I can just imagine what our friends in the region, our allies, will be thinking by reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and foster terrorism, not only in Syria and in Lebanon but in Israel as well," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders, including Boehner, Wednesday afternoon to discuss Iraq. He has so far ruled out deploying U.S. troops to the country to put down the insurgency.

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