Iraq crisis: US deploys `military personnel`; mulls joint action with Iran

Over three years after US troops pulled out of Iraq ending nine years of war, President Barack Obama is sending American troops back to Iraq.

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Last Updated: Jun 17, 2014, 12:00 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar

Washington: Over three years after US troops pulled out of Iraq ending nine years of war, President Barack Obama is sending American troops back to Iraq.

It is not a combat deployment. The 275 military personnel being sent to Iraq will primarily protect US citizens and property as the country increasingly descends into chaos. The troops, if necessary, will get into combat mode to protect US interests.

"The safety of personnel serving in diplomatic missions abroad is among our highest priorities. The presence of these additional forces will help enable the State Department to continue their critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraqis on challenges they are facing," Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, said that the US military personnel are entering into Iraq with the consent of Iraqi government and added that the US embassy in Baghdad remains open.

US boots on the ground are significant as they indicate the growing unease in Washington on the future of Iraq given the rapid rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a breakaway al Qaeda faction that aims to establish a Sunni Islamist state in West Asia.

President Obama has also considered air strikes as an option to halt the march of ISIS insurgents who have seized a number of Iraqi towns and cities in the past week and is said to be just 60 miles short of Baghdad.

The US has opened a line of discussion with Iran on measures to make the region stable. However, both sides have rejected suggestions of military collaboration.

As much the US would want Iraq to stabilise, the Obama administration would not want itself to be seen as coming close to Iran against Sunnis. As a result, the US has made action against Sunni insurgents contingent on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki taking concrete steps to broaden his Shi`ite-dominated government.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is working on the diplomatic front - he called the foreign ministers of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to ensure that the powerful Sunnis in Middle East are on the same page on taking action against ISIS.

Saudi Arabia is already upset with US opening lines with Iran. Riyadh has rejected foreign interference in Iraq, and blamed Maliki government`s "sectarian and exclusionary policies" for fuelling the insurgency.

However, time is running out to contain the situation as ISIS rebels have carried out hundreds of summary executions.

The United Nations said ISIS rebels had almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men in Iraq over the past five days.