The Iraqi government has quietly asked the Obama administration to help it defend itself against a growing insurgency in the country.
The New York Times reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki secretly asked the U.S. to support his government with manned and unmanned airstrikes against ISIS militant training and staging areas in the country’s western region. ISIS is the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an al-Qaeda offshoot group that took control of the Iraqi town of Mosul on Tuesday.
“What we really need right now are drone strikes and air strikes,” a senior Iraqi official told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
The Obama administration, thus far, has been reluctant to provide that support. President Obama seems dedicated to sticking to his overall message that the U.S. ended its involvement in the country when the last troops left in 2011.
“There are no plans right now to participate in anything like this,” said one unnamed, senior U.S. military official who confirmed that the administration had talked with Iraqi officials in recent months about conducting the strikes. The official said the administration “did not give them a hard no — it was ‘Thanks for your interest and we will talk about it more.’”
Some experts say that American strikes could have a positive effect on the situation in the country. They also say that American support may only come if Maliki takes steps to make his government more inclusive.
“U.S. military support for Iraq could have a positive effect but only if it is conditioned on Maliki changing his behavior within Iraq’s political system,” said former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack. “He has to bring the Sunni community back in, agree to limits on his executive authority and agree to reform Iraqi security forces to make them more professional and competent.”
Yet the Obama administration remains reticent to act.
“Ultimately, this is for the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government to deal with,” a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.