Iraq crisis: US sends more troops to Baghdad as ISIS declare `Caliphate`
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Baghdad: Against the backdrop of Caliphate declaration by the ISIS, Iraq`s newly elected Parliament convened on Tuesday in the first step towards forming a new government aimed at assuaging the sectarian tensions that have fed the al Qaeda inspired Sunni extremism.
However the first session ended in disappointment as the lawmakers failed to choose a speaker. The Parliament is set to meet again in a week for the same, reports said.
The new legislature met for the first time since it was elected in April elections that declared Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as winner, suggesting his return for the third term, but the ISIS insurgency in June played spoilsport with Maliki`s political career and it is almost certain that he will have to quit.
Shi`ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has been blamed by allies and foes alike for worsening the sectarian tension by not paying attention to the Sunnis, thus fuelling their frustration that further fed ISIS extremism.
Though the US steered clear of “picking and choosing” Iraq`s leaders, the White House made it clear that the Iraqi people must decide the makeup of the next coalition government and the new PM, stressing upon the urgency of rejecting sectarian governance.
John Kerry who visited Baghdad last week, had also urged Maliki to form a new government that will be inclusive and represent all of the people of Iraq, especially Sunnis and Kurds who have felt marginalised under the Shiite-led government.
"The United States would like to see the Iraqi people find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq," Kerry had said.
Meanwhile, the US is sending additional 200 troops to Iraq as the battle for Tikrit intensified with the ISIS fighting back the army offensive. The Obama administration has ruled out sending combat troops to Iraq but the additional troops being sent are said to be equipped for combat.
The additional US troops are being sent to Baghdad to beef up the security at the US embassy and protection of US citizens and interests in Iraq, said the White House.
US President Barack Obama in a letter to Congress said that he had ordered “200 additional US Armed Forces personnel to Iraq to reinforce security at the US Embassy, its support facilities, and the Baghdad International Airport," the Reuters reported.
"This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat."
This batch of 200 troops is in addition to the 300 military advisors already assigned there for assisting Iraqi forces to confront ISIS attack.
The Pentagon said that along with additional troops, the US was also deploying small number of helicopters and drone aircraft to Iraq.
However, the delivery of F-16 jets to Iraq has been delayed due to increasing violence there, said the Pentagon on Monday.
The US` deployment of additional troops to Iraq comes at a time when the ISIS have captured wide swathes of the country and declared a “Caliphate” there, renaming their group as the Islamic State.
However, the US has tried to make light of the ISIS declaration, saying it had no meaning and they have heard such claims in the past too.
"We have seen these types of words or comparable claims from ISIL before," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"This declaration has no meaning for the people in Iraq and Syria," she said, adding that it just "exposed the true nature of this organisation and its desire to control people by fear."
The White House also condemned the Caliphate declaration saying, "ISIL is fighting to destroy Iraq. And that`s why you`ve seen this administration work closely with Iraq`s political leaders to encourage them to unite the country as they confront this existential threat".
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