Iraq conflict: Obama to 'review options'


"Abandoned Iraqi army helmets tell a story of panic, disarray and ignominious flight," reports Paul Wood

US President Barack Obama has said he will take several days to decide what action to take over Iraq, but that no US troops will be deployed there.

Any US involvement "has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences", he said.

In recent days Sunni insurgents have seized the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and are moving closer to Baghdad.

Iraq's most senior Shia cleric has issued a call to arms to fellow Shias.

The message from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which was read out at Friday prayers in Karbala, said: "Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose."

How might the US help the Iraqi government? Frank Gardner reports

There are reports that thousands have already joined Shia militias, which could play a crucial role in the defence of Baghdad, says the BBC's Richard Galpin who is in the city.

The Sunni insurgents - from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) - regard Iraq's Shia majority as "infidels".

Meanwhile, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Tehran was ready to help Iraq, but ruled out sending Iranian troops to battle extremist Sunni Islamists.

"Iraq is Iran's neighbouring friend and Iran will certainly help the Iraqi government on the basis of international rules and frameworks... So far the Iraqi government has not asked for help yet, but if they do we will certainly help them," he told the BBC.

'Break the momentum'

Mr Obama told reporters that ISIS represented a danger not just to Iraq and its people but that "it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well".

Barack Obama: "The US will do our part, but understand that ultimately it is up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems."

He said Iraq needed additional support to "break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Mr Maliki on Thursday and promised that Shia-majority Iran would "not allow the supporters of terrorists to disrupt security and stability of Iraq through exporting terrorism to Iraq".

According to unnamed sources in both the the Wall Street Journal and CNN, Iran has already sent several elite units of its Revolutionary Guard to help Iraq, but other sources say Iranian officials have denied their involvement.

Amid the continuing uncertainty, the price of Brent crude spiked on Friday.

Analysis, Mark Mardell, BBC North America editor

This was not the swift deployment of military force that some critics in Washington want. But it was a tough-minded, even impatient, statement of the president's approach - as he put it at West Point: "Because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail."

He said American sacrifices had given Iraqis the chance to claim their future - but they, or their leaders. hadn't seized it. He almost mocked the Iraqi army for running away, castigated the Government for not trying hard enough to overcome the sectarian divide and made it clear that the US would not be "dragged in" to a return to Iraq.

There's a world view behind this statement that some Americans and others in the West may find uncomfortable - that US military might, as great as it is, cannot impose solutions on a complex world - behind his words the strong feeling that changing Iraq by force has already been given more than a chance. It failed. And it mustn't be repeated.

Is Obama right over Iraq?

Iraqi Shia men clean weapons as they get ready to defend Sadr City district Shia civilians are cleaning their weapons in readiness to fight the ISIS militants
Iraqi Shia tribal fighters deploy with their weapons to help the military, 13 June 2014 They plan to help the military keep ISIS out of Baghdad
Families arrive at a checkpoint next to a temporary displacement camp in Kalak, Iraq  13 June 2014 The fighting has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes
People have their passports processed at a checkpoint, 13 June 2014 Many have moved into the autonomous Kurdish region
Militants celebrate in Mosul (12 June 2014) Meanwhile, militants in Mosul have been celebrating their easy victory
Partitioned Iraq?

After taking Mosul late Monday, and then Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, the Sunni militants pressed south into the ethnically divided Diyala province.

On Friday, they battled Shia fighters near Muqdadiya, just 80 km ( 50 miles) from Baghdad's city limits.

Reinforcements from both the Iraqi army and Shia militias have arrived in the city of Samarra, where fighters loyal to ISIS are trying to enter from the north.

Mr Maliki is also reported to have travelled to the city for a security meeting.

On paper Iraq's army should be able to overcome the numerically inferior IS

In Geneva the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has warned of "summary executions and extrajudicial killings" and said the number killed in recent days may be in the hundreds.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 40,000 people have fled Tikrit and Samarra, adding to the 500,000 people who are already believed to have left Mosul.

Many who have fled have crossed into the autonomous Kurdish region.

The Kurdish leaders have used the current fighting to take control of territory they have sought to rule for decades, such as the strategic districts of Saadiyah and Jalawla.

Analysts fear that the violence will end in Iraq being further partitioned into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

Analysis: Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor

The success of ISIS can only make the turmoil in the Middle East worse. ISIS is an ultra-extremist Sunni Muslim group.

Its success will deepen the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias that is already the most dangerous fault line in the Middle East.

Iran, which is a majority Shia Muslim country, shares a border with Iraq. It has a direct line to Iraq's Shia Muslim Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, and close links with some Iraqi Shia militias. The Iranians could direct their proxies, and even their own special forces units, at ISIS.

That might end up further inflaming the anger of Iraqi Sunnis, who have already helped the advance of ISIS through Iraq.

Nouri Maliki: Iraq's leader under pressure

Sharpening Sunni-Shia schism bodes ill for Middle East

What does Iraq's crisis mean for oil?

ISIS in Iraq
An Islamist fighter near a burning Iraqi army Humvee in Tikrit, 12 June An Islamist fighter near a burning Iraqi army Humvee in Tikrit
  • The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has 3,000 to 5,000 fighters, and grew out of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq
  • Joined in its offensives by other Sunni militant groups, including Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and disaffected Sunni tribal fighters
  • ISIS has exploited the standoff between the Iraqi government and the minority Sunni Arab community, which complains that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is monopolising power
  • The organisation is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an obscure figure regarded as a battlefield commander and tactician

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  • Comment number 387.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 386.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    It makes me ashamed to be British when I read comments on here implying that "we don't care how many foreign civilians die so long as we don't have to pay anything or accept any refugees"... typical right wing "I'm alright Jack, you go to hell" contemptuousness towards fellow human beings.... Worse still, we are partly to blame for the plight of these people!!

  • Comment number 384.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    On one side I think the US should take responsibility for this disaster, on the other hand it's Bush's mess, so Obama could wash his hands off it and let the Iraqis sort it out themselves. Intervening or not doesn't make much difference anyway, as we see in Syria. The only country that was better off after US intervention is Vietnam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    US don't need Iraqui oil any longers as they are busily destroying America with fracking. Goldman Sachs have previously removed anything of value not screwed down tight so no reason to do anything Obama. Now what country was next on GW Bush's list? Oh yes somewhere nearer home for a change Venezuela! Even Bush wasn't that thick to have a pop at Russia by a proxy war in Ukraine!

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Normal civilized human beings are watching the World Cup, shhhhhh

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Whn is the war crimes trial for Tony Blair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Stay out of it Obama !! You will only make matters worse. Supply the Iraqis weapons, but don't even think of sending anybody there. Let the Arabs decide among themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    @374. governments lie
    We broke it but like a glass once broken it can't be mended.
    But it can be melted and reformed once you heat it sufficiently.

    The glass that is, not Iraq ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Henry Hazlitt @363
    "Exporting ideas
    liberty (&) secularism"

    So we DO wish to intervene, risk trading ideas. Export & import?

    And to trade. On terms that bring together, or that widen inequality? Or 'it doesn't really matter'? As long as 'we get ahead', & stay ahead?

    How about, "I just WON'T give Johnny another candy-floss, until I KNOW little Mustapha has a pair of shoes"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    The US chickens have come home to roost not only in Libya, but now Iraq & will be followed by Afghanistan. The UK being joined at the hip with the USA sacrificed the lives of its troops just so America could continue on its merry way of failed regime change & creating more terrorists. Ukraine will suffer the same fate, and be sacrificed by the US in a feeble attempt to antagonise Russia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    This is a situation of poisonous choices for us. The root cause goes back to the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. We don't act, and maybe watch IRAN, who loves us not, help IRAQ and become their ally (or merge). We act, and end up propping up a regime friendly to IRAN. We act and empower ISIS. IRAN does not love the Kurds, so we store up trouble there. ISIS is not our problem now but come 2024/2034?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    We broke it but like a glass once broken it can't be mended. The The West is damned if it gets involved and damned if it doesn't. All the trouble in the region now seems to be the proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia as to which branch of the religion of peace is the purist. Yet another case of different cultures hating each other. Ain't multiculturalism great. Stay out of it

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    What's the betting that the news headlines next week will be...UK OPENS IT'S DOORS TO IRAQ'S REFUGEES.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    You were warned, USA, that exactly this situation would be the end result of your wanton destruction of Iraqi society. Yet you wouldn't listen.You never do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    In reality, Iran is saying Syria´s Assad is there to stay and Israel must present a solution to the ´Palestinian´ problem.

    The ´carrot´ to the West is that they will fight Sunni extremism. As yet, Shia extremism have attacked Israelis (and Jews in reprisal ?) where they were -- but no western country directly.

    -- Their politics appear consistent --and may be believable.

    -- Our only hope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    You really couldn't make this up , The US have a warship en route , Iran has offered support as have we. Next week news headline; Joint US/Iran surge on ISIS

    BBC QT on Thursday night just gone worth watching
    Salma Yaqoob characterizes the situation perfectly

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Have nothing to do with America...bottom line. They lie!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    The March Hare


    By 'good leader' I was meaning somebody with good leadership skills, but not necessarily leading others in the right direction.


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