U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that he sent 130 members of a military assessment team to Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq that will provide an evaluation of the increasingly violent situation across the divided country as Iraq prepares to undergo a leadership shift and form a new government in Baghdad.
The assessment team plans to evaluate the recent instability caused by a violent Islamic jihadi group now calling itself Islamic State that has infiltrated the region, taken over the Mosul Damn, and threatened thousands of ethnic minorities and Christians in a region not known for harboring radicalized Islamic ideologies.
Iran’s National Security Council has joined the United States and new Iraqi President Fouad Masoum in endorsing Haidar al-Abadi as Iraq’s new premier, alienating current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from his main source of Shiite support as Washington and Tehran are fed up with al-Maliki’s heavily partisan governing style that has marginalized Sunnis across Iraq, leading moderate Sunnis and Baathists to work together in an unholy alliance, supporting well-funded militant Islamic State fighters who are fighting with U.S. military equipment seized from the Iraqi military and vowing to put an end to Prime Minister al-Maliki’s eight year control over Iraq.
After Baghdad’s government failed to unite in April, Islamic State fighters have grown bolder and expanded the size and scope of their strongholds in eastern Iraq, moving northwards in August, capturing oil fields, seizing the Mosul Damn, and disrupting the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
On Tuesday the United States continued its air campaign which began late last week on selective Islamic State military targets operating in northern Iraq.
The European Union agreed to supply Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq with military equipment to fight against Islamic State fighters that are using advanced U.S. military hardware.
President Obama spoke to reporters on Monday from Martha’s Vineyard about the United States’ role in supporting a new Iraqi leadership that is capable to regaining the trust of its people and protecting the rights of all Iraqi citizens.
“This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve,” Obama said.
“The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people” Obama added.