U.S. favours combined Iraq-Syria paradigm

Updated - November 17, 2021 04:32 am IST

Published - June 20, 2014 08:48 pm IST - Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama. File photo

U.S. President Barack Obama. File photo

In ruling out the re-entry of U.S. combat troops to quell escalating sectarian violence in Iraq, President Barack Obama on Thursday signalled a delicate shift in Washington’s paradigm towards one that viewed the conflict as inextricably bound with the battle against extremists in neighbouring Syria.

Announcing his plan to send 300 military advisers to Iraq, with a mandate to contribute to the efforts of joint operation centres in Baghdad and some northern parts of the country, Mr. Obama noted, “The key to both Syria and Iraq is going to be a combination of what happens inside the country, working with moderate Syrian opposition, working with an Iraqi government that is inclusive, and us laying down a more effective counterterrorism platform that gets all the countries in the region pulling in the same direction.”

The President added that rather than try to play “whack-a-mole” wherever such terrorist organisations “pop up”, the focus had to remain on building effective partnerships.

Analysts also concurred that the White House’s refusal of the request for air strikes made this week by beleaguered Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reflected the emerging administration view that Washington was actively seeking alternatives to Mr. al-Maliki given the approaching formation of a new government after recent parliamentary elections.

In this regard the Washington Post quoted unnamed government officials saying that when the current crisis fomented by militant outfit the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began last week, the administration “told Maliki in no uncertain terms that time was short for his Shiite-dominated government to reach out to Sunni and Kurdish communities with new offers of political inclusion”.

Officials also hinted at the possibility of forming new states respecting deep ethnic divisions, saying that otherwise Kurds would likely see the upheaval as an opportunity to form their own state, and some Sunnis would likely join Islamist militants advancing on Baghdad.

Mr. Obama in his briefing came close to hinting at the need for a fresh political perspective of Iraqi leaders, arguing that the only way to prevent each ethnic group in Iraq from assuming irreconcilable positions and causing territorial instability was if there were “credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country.”

The President said, “Right now that doesn’t exist. There’s too much suspicion [and] mistrust.”

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