The Obama administration is considering expanding its support to Iraqi forces as they fight off a renewed al-Qaeda threat, but Washington's ability to significantly increase security assistance to Baghdad will remain limited.
U.S. officials say they are in discussions with the Iraqi government about training its elite forces in a third country, which would allow the United States to provide one modest measure of new assistance against militants in the absence of a troop deal that allows U.S. soldiers to operate within Iraq.
No further details were immediately available about where that might take place or how many troops it might involve.
Reluctance to further empower Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki or put American boots on the ground constrains U.S. support for Iraq as it battles militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al Qaeda affiliate, in Anbar province, and seeks to reverse a striking surge in violence across the country in the last year.
The United States is sending missiles; surveillance aircraft and other gear that may help Iraqi forces rebuff al-Qaeda in the western province, a Sunni Muslim stronghold.
But Washington also wants Maliki, a Shiite, to do more to reach out to minority Kurds and Sunnis who accuse him of fanning sectarian tensions.
The conflict in Anbar is the latest in a string of events pitting Maliki against Iraqi Sunnis, many of whom resent the Shiite domination that has followed the U.S.-led ouster of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Colin Kahl, a former senior Pentagon official specializing in the Middle East, said the U.S. military's ability to conduct overt activities in Iraq was extremely limited, but that the Obama administration was likely providing the Iraqi government with intelligence to help them target al-Qaeda.
“As we do so, we have to be mindful that we are not empowering Maliki's bad behavior, and we need to be careful not to do anything that makes it look like we are taking sides in a sectarian fight,” Kahl said.
Beyond such modest support, and despite growing U.S. fears that the war in Syria is fuelling a regional al Qaeda comeback, U.S. officials say their hands are largely tied in Iraq.
Secretary of State John Kerry made clear last weekend the Obama administration has no appetite for sending U.S. troops back.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر