What Does Growing Violence in Iraq Mean for the United States?
Iraq has erupted in increased violence over the last month with extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — ISIS or ISIL for the Levant region encompassing Syria – a group that is steadily gaining control in Iraq after crossing over from the Syrian region. ISIS has taken control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, as well as Tikrit, with threats to gain ground on Baghdad.
The heightened military strain combined with an overrun Iraqi military there has resulted in appeals to the U.S. for aid. One request came from Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, according to The New York Times, which states that he privately requested airstrikes from the U.S. but that the request was rejected by the Obama Administration. “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions. The current focus of our discussions with the government of Iraq and our policy considerations is to build the capacity of the Iraqis to successfully confront” the extremist attacks, said National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan to The NYT.
“The United States will stand with Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum as they forge the national unity necessary to succeed in the fight against ISIL,” read a statement from the White House Office of the Press Secretary. “We will work with Congress to support the new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, which will provide flexibility and resources to help Iraq respond to emerging needs as the terrorist threat from ISIL continues to evolve.”
Also mentioned was the Strategic Framework Agreement, which outlines the continued support role the U.S. will take after withdrawing from the region. The U.S. has put a great deal of funding towards military aid and development in Iraq since it began withdrawing troops. A Defense Department official told CNN that approximately $15 billion in U.S. funding has been put towards materials, training, and other resources. This includes rockets for helicopter, machine guns, and other weaponry, and $1 billion is currently being routed towards further supplies. Iraq has asked the U.S. to utilize drones in order to help find and target insurgents, something a senior official told The Washington Post is being considered.