US keeps Iraq waiting on air strikes as ISIS aim for oil refinery
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Washington: Even as the US continues to weigh options on how to blunt the lightning advance made by ISIS insurgents, President Barack Obama on Wednesday made it clear that he won`t need authority from Congressional leaders before taking any action on Iraq, said a Republican Senator.
However, the US seems reluctant about ordering airstrikes in Iraq, with Army General Martin E. Dempsey speaking of difficulties in targeting the Sunni rebels who have mixed with the local population there.
Meanwhile in Iraq, Army troops battled ISIS` Sunni militants near the oil refinery in Baiji. A government spokesman of Iraq Army today said that it was in "complete control" of the refinery however witnesses claimed the presence of ISIS militants, reported the Reuters.
A day after Iraq requested the US to launch airstrikes against the ISIS, the Obama administration was still considering an array of options on Iraq.
After an hour-long brainstorming meeting in the Oval office between Obama and lawmakers, Senator Mitch Mc McConnell told reporters that the president “indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take.”
Obama along with top Congressional leaders like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Met behind closed doors to discuss the ISIS militancy in Iraq and measures that can be taken to quell the crisis.
Army Gen Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iraq had yesterday formally requested the US to launch air strikes on ISIS Sunni rebels after they hit the country`s biggest oil refinery in Baiji.
However, no discrete decision in this regard has yet been taken by the Obama administration as no clear announcement was made if air strike on Iraq was imminent.
Instead, the leaders suggested that the Obama administration`s main focus would be on urging Iraq`s leaders to set aside "sectarian agenda" and to come together with a sense of national unity.
Speaking to a panel from the Senate Appropriations Committee, Dempsey hinted at the difficulties in launching selective airstrikes on ISIS as they had dissolved with the locals.
“It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then immediately striking,” he said.
Dempsey further blamed Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, of having worsened Iraq’s sectarian divisions.
In a statement made after the meeting, the White House said, Obama reviewed the administration efforts to strengthen the capacity of Iraq`s security forces to confront the threat from ISIL, including options for increased security assistance”.
The White House added that Obama “pledged to continue consulting closely with Congress going forward".
Meanwhile In Iraq, US Vice-President Biden held discussions with Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki on possible "additional measures" by the US to assist Iraqi forces and “roll back” the advances made by the ISIL, reported the BBC.
The US has meanwhile sent 275 non-combatant troops to Iraq to protect its embassy staff there.
Also, a US aircraft carrier and other warships are stationed in the Persian Gulf to give the US flexibility of taking any action in Iraq whenever necessary.
However, already weary of a long and costly war in Iraq, the US has refrained from deciding to take military action in Iraq and the main priority would be on urging political dialogue between ruling Shiite government and Sunni rebels.
The ISIS has massacred hundreds of people since the start of the offensive, and captured huge swathes of Iraq in a drastic way.
Some 500,000 people have been internally displaced, according to UN estimates.
The ISIS militants who took over Mosul and Tikrit last week were seen advancing with a lighting speed as they approach Baghdad. In the beginning Iraqi troops fled Mosul, discarding weapons and uniforms, but Iraqi security forces took time and gained ground and on Sunday claimed to have halted the Sunni rebels` advance by taking back many cities.
Thousand of Iraqis have meanwhile responded to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki`s announcement regarding arming the volunteers and even children, women and old people were seen brandishing rifles on streets of Baghdad, ready to battle the insurgents.
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