Iraq formally requests US air strikes against ISIS

posted at 12:31 pm on June 18, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The embattled government in Iraq suddenly finds itself quite a bit more fond of American military power than it did in 2011. According to the BBC, the US has received a formal request for air strikes to assist in the defense of Baghdad, as ISIS forces approach the capital:

Iraq has formally called on the United States to launch air strikes against jihadist militants who have seized several key cities.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” confirmed top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey.

The announcement came after insurgents launched an attack on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery north of Baghdad.

Reuters indirectly confirmed this from a report on Al-Arabiya television:

A news alert on the Al Arabiya news channel quoted Zebari as saying: “We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants.”

This puts the Obama administration even more on the spot than they have been for the last few days. Barack Obama promised that the Iraq War was “over” when we pulled out all of our forces, save for those protecting the American embassy. This week, Obama authorized the deployment of 275 troops, but as advisers and protection, not for offensive operations, at least not primarily. National Journal wonders, as did Noah yesterday, whether military action would be legal now that the force authorization for Iraq has been concluded:

Indeed, despite the U.S. military operating freely in Iraq for eight years during its occupation, a potential strike against forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies presents a tougher call than it appears.

For one thing, the administration has in no uncertain terms repeatedly declared the conflict in Iraq to be over—and in 2011, the United States effectively pulled out of the country after an agreement to leave a more robust U.S. presence couldn’t be reached with the Iraqi government. That means the White House may no longer be able to seek legal cover by invoking the 2002 law passed by Congress that authorized the Iraq invasion.

“It’s a bad argument,” said Bobby Chesney, an expert on national security law at the University of Texas. “Obviously, the context was for action against the government of Iraq.”

Chesney conceded that the law was used for years afterward to justify continued U.S. operations in the country after Saddam Hussein’s regime fell, but, he said, “We’ve been out for years. To go in there and attack ISIS—it’s really a fresh fight.”

Moreover, the administration has come out in favor of repealing the Iraq Authorization of Military Force—and Obama reiterated last week that he hasn’t changed his mind. That makes asserting it now, at best, inconvenient and at worst, highly hypocritical.

The White House could instead invoke the broader 2001 AUMF that authorized U.S. action against al-Qaida in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The main problem with that? Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has denounced ISIS for its conduct in Syria, where it has clashed with an al-Qaida backed group.

In addition, Chesney noted, the 9/11 AUMF was intended to warrant preemptive action against threats to the United States—and there has been little evidence that ISIS has America on its mind. The best thing for the administration’s legal position, he joked, is if al-Zawahiri issues a press release praising ISIS and hinting at reconciliation.

Ahem. Obama ordered military action against Moammar Qaddafi under the questionable “responsibility to protect” paradigm, which actually targeted the government of another country. That’s called “war,” in any other context, and yet not only did Obama not have authorization to conduct war against Libya, he never bothered to seek it after the expiration of the War Powers loophole the White House claimed for legitimization, either.

In this case, the R2P seems much less legally fraught. We are not going to war with the legitimate and recognized government of Iraq, but protecting it against a sack of its capital. And now our nominal ally in Iraq has formally requested the assistance, which allows for executive action. While James Oliphant notes that the WPA proviso about “clear and present danger to the security of the United States” may not be entirely clear with regard to ISIS, it’s also clear from intelligence reports that this group intends to conduct operations against the West at some point.

The time may be propitious for an attack on ISIS, which may have lost some momentum already:

Islamic militants attacked Iraq’s largest oil refinery late Tuesday, but were repelled by Iraqi security forces after an overnight battle, Iraqi officials said Wednesday.

The al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began their attack late Tuesday night, but fighting continued into Wednesday morning. There were unconfirmed reports that the militants had managed to gain control of much of the refinery compound, but in messages posted on their Facebook page, the Iraqi Special Operations force vehemently denied the claims.

Iraqi special forces, backed up by air support, destroyed an ISIS convoy and gunned down three ISIS snipers during a failed attempt by the group to break into the Baiji refinery, according to the special operations force, part of Iraq’s Interior Ministry which is in charge of security across the country.

Chief military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, later said government forces had repelled the attack and that 40 attackers were killed in fighting.

Operations at the sprawling complex were halted and its foreign staff evacuated on Tuesday shut down due to the threat.

This is probably an easy call for Obama to make. Air strikes are a lot more antiseptic than putting ground troops in harm’s way, and a lot more practical in terms of politics, logistics, and timing. It gives Obama a chance to take some action that will at least address the deep concerns from allies in the region about the lack of action and direction from Washington these days, too. Air strikes will also provide a positive impact on the situation and give Baghdad some room to maneuver politically and militarily. Plus, Congress is likely to rally around this limited intervention, which would provide Obama with political cover — if he’s smart enough to seek it. He didn’t in Libya and is still paying the political price for high-handing Congress and going it alone.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

“We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants.”

King Barack will form “a study group”.

GarandFan on June 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

We will have to see the newest poll results and how this will effect fund raising before we make a decision.

DAT60A3 on June 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Rumor has that ISIS has ground-to-air missiles. (Stingers maybe?)

If we do go with airstrikes – prayers will follow our men and women.

Yet another scary chapter in the Middle East

jake-the-goose on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Sure, just as soon as you deposit 1 trillion dollars into a Swiss bank account. You know, to cover our expenses, both past and present.

mustng66 on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Obama will dither for a few weeks and get back to you.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I keep hearing he doesn’t want airstrikes because of civilian casualties

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I predict a devastating Twitter campaign.

#goodluckwithallthat

stout77 on June 18, 2014 at 12:38 PM

I keep hearing he doesn’t want airstrikes because of civilian casualties

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

In that particular region, I see civilian casualties as extra bonus, not collateral.

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Momentum is definitely with ISIS right now. Airstrikes will help slow the advance and give the Iraq elite time to vacate the country, but I feel the terrorists have won due to the lack of commitment from the opposition.

Deano1952 on June 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM

No war in history has ever been won from the air. Wars are won by the infantryman with his rifle.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

He can’t dither too long because at the rate the terrorists are moving they will have all of Iran and probably the embassy staff as hostages. He doesn’t care about anything except obama himself.

garydt on June 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

If the US does decide to take this late action. We had best do it from way up high.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

The US should take no military action that could last longer than our national attention span, about three weeks.

PersonFromPorlock on June 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Rix point taken :)

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

the 9/11 AUMF was intended to warrant preemptive action against threats to the United States

We still have US diplomats there and civilians at the embassy. It could be used to protect it as US soil. Obama didn’t do it in Benghazi, but he could do it here. As I have said on other Benghazi threads, there are already NEO procedures in place for evacuation.

“a. Noncombatantevacuationoperations(NEOs) are conducted to assist the Department of State (DOS) in evacuating US citizens, Department of Defense (DOD) civilian personnel, and designated host nation (HN) and third country nationals (TCNs) whose lives are in danger from locations in a foreign nation to an appropriate safe haven. Although normally considered in connection with hostile action, evacuation may also be conducted in anticipation of, or in response to, any natural or man-made disaster.”

“Hostile Environment. Noncombatants may be evacuated under conditions ranging from civil disorder, to terrorist action, to full-scale combat. Under such conditions, the JTF must be prepared for a wide range of contingencies. The JFC may elect to deploy a sizable security element with the evacuation force or position a large reaction force, either with the evacuation force or at an intermediate staging base (ISB). In addition to normal functions associated with noncombatant evacuations (embarkation, transportation, medical, and services), the JTF may be required to conduct a forcible entry operation, establish defensive perimeters, escort convoys, participate in personnel recovery (PR) operations, and perform the screening of evacuees normally accomplished by DOS officials.”

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3-68.pdf

Patriot Vet on June 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

The US should take no military action that could last longer than our national attention span, about three weeks.

PersonFromPorlock on June 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

If Germany, Italy, and Japan decided to conquer the world today they’d succeed.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

I think we should bomb malaki

gerrym51 on June 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

#helpIran-I’mgolfing

Oil Can on June 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

The people the U.S. spent millions training threw down their weapons and ran. If the people of Iraq won’t fight, why spend even more $$$ to prolong the inevitable fall?

ROCnPhilly on June 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

I doubt Obama will approve the request. And let me just say that Maliki is a corrupt inept piece of garbage.

Jack_Burton on June 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Obama will make a decision by Next Easter.

portlandon on June 18, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Under no circumstances should we prop up the corrupt Maliki regime. He is a corrupt partisan Shia, and an Iranian tool and shill. He is the reason ISIS has got a foothold in the country.

Read this article. It’s by a lib, and in the New Yorker, but is very revealing. In 2010, Maliki accepted a corrupt deal brokered by the Iranians to save his government. The Obama administration, more concerned with abandoning Iraq to comply with simplistic campaign promises, refused to back the winner of the elections, Ayad Allawi, a secular and pro-
Western candidate, who unfortunately failed to garner the majority that would allow him to form a government. The Iranians forced Sadr to support Maliki, allowing him to form a government. The price was the decimation of American influence, and the complete withdrawal of troops. That is why Maliki refused to sign a status of forces agreement. Of course, the Obama administration didn’t try very hard to get one.

Let the Iranians own this. They wanted Iraq, let them deal with ISIS trying to prop up their incompetent little puppet. Maybe we should back the so called bad guys. Maybe we already are.

Joseph K on June 18, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Wait. Which side is Obama on?

Fallon on June 18, 2014 at 12:55 PM

I wish them a ton of luck.

formwiz on June 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Bomb Mecca and see what happens.

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 12:57 PM

+1oilcan

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Maybe we can send them a case of hashtags.

HumpBot Salvation on June 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

No war in history has ever been won from the air. Wars are won by the infantryman with his rifle.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Fatman and Little Boy would like to formally lodge their objections.

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

What exactly to the polls tell obaka to do?

ladyingray on June 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Rumor has that ISIS has ground-to-air missiles. (Stingers maybe?)

If we do go with airstrikes – prayers will follow our men and women.

Yet another scary chapter in the Middle East

jake-the-goose on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

With Stinger missiles and a recent influx of $400 million dollars stolen from banks in Iraq, one could envision a scenario where ISIS buy’s it’s own planes, equips them each with a few stinger missiles and a happy warrior and sends them all out to land in unsuspecting airports across the region, walk out onto the tarmac and point and shoot down whatever commercial planes happen to be taking off or landing.

Most military planes have built in defensive weapons systems or flares for protection. Commercial airlines, not so much.

Agreed with your prayers sentiment regardless.

can_con on June 18, 2014 at 1:05 PM

The US should take no military action that could last longer than our national attention span, about three weeks.

PersonFromPorlock on June 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Not that long. I think episodes of dancing with the stars last only about an hour.

Alabama Infidel on June 18, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Fatman and Little Boy would like to formally lodge their objections.

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Only if they forget about all the men that died getting us in a position to use them.

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

On one condition: Should we prevail at eliminating the threat, Maliki agrees to step down and hold a new election for PM.

Occams Stubble on June 18, 2014 at 1:10 PM

So why don’t we authorize Saudi Arabia or some other “friendly” gulf country to bomb ISIS?? Their guys need practice too!!

– after all ISIS is coming after them sooner rather than later?

(and we can sell them more munitions!!)

KenInIL on June 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM

I think Obama will not ask for authorization.

That would imply that he actually needs permission from some other authority, and so is not the almighty and true King of the World.

s1im on June 18, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Rumor has that ISIS has ground-to-air missiles. (Stingers maybe?)

If we do go with airstrikes – prayers will follow our men and women.

Yet another scary chapter in the Middle East

jake-the-goose on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I don’t think it is a ‘rumor’… I believe it is a fact. They seized an entire convoy of humvee’s over the weekend and they have our weapons to use against us.

This my friends…. is “Smart Power” – ObamaStyle (TM)

Key West Reader on June 18, 2014 at 1:16 PM

So, if we go ahead and a few pilots or fire control ground guys get captured, Barry has the perfect way to finish emptying out Gitmo in the hostage exchanges. That is, if our guys aren’t beheaded on video.

butch on June 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Rumor has that ISIS has ground-to-air missiles. (Stingers maybe?)

If we do go with airstrikes – prayers will follow our men and women.

Yet another scary chapter in the Middle East

jake-the-goose on June 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I don’t think it is a ‘rumor’… I believe it is a fact. They seized an entire convoy of humvee’s over the weekend and they have our weapons to use against us.

This my friends…. is “Smart Power” – ObamaStyle (TM)

Key West Reader on June 18, 2014 at 1:16 PM

I’de be more worried about them being used against civilian airliners all over the world. Zero countermeasures. Nothing to do but watch and ride.

V7_Sport on June 18, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Won’t the Saudis and the CIA be mad and sad that your targeting your own people?

BL@KBIRD on June 18, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Fatman and Little Boy would like to formally lodge their objections.

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Only if they forget about all the men that died getting us in a position to use them.

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Had he said, “no war in history has ever been won without boots on the ground,” then your objection would be mea culpa worthy. But you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima did not push the war against Japan into the “W” column.

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Quick somebody print a newspaper with his decision so he can decide.

Sven on June 18, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Fatman and Little Boy would like to formally lodge their objections.

The 1st Cav, 11th Airborne, 24th Infantry, and 4th Marine divisions, along with the rest of the 350,000 US & allied personnel would like formally to ask Little Boy and Fat man how much terrain they occupied.

F X Muldoon on June 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Wait. Which side is Obama on?

Fallon on June 18, 2014 at 12:55 PM

His and the other.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Screw Maliki. He wanted us out. Pull up your big boy pants – defend your own damn country.

MoreLiberty on June 18, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Not another nickel. Not another life. Nothing at all. We should simply honor our commitment to defend Israel when they are attacked, (and that will be sooner, not later), and let the rest of that earthy anus fester and rot. Let all those vermin maggot muzzies cut each others fingers, arms and heads off all they want. The more, the merrier, in my view.

I have always believed that we have been at war with Islam since 9/11/01. I do not believe in ‘moderate’ Muslims, nor do I believe there are ‘peaceful’ Muslims. The entire cult that is Islam was predicated on their world domination at the expense of those who do not submit to their rule.

It is way past the time when Americans need to wake up and realize that there is no way to stem the tide of Islam short of annihilating every last one of them. Just like you would an infestation of roaches in your home. One can of RAID at a time, if that’s what it takes.

bimmcorp on June 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Had he said, “no war in history has ever been won without boots on the ground,” then your objection would be mea culpa worthy. But you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima did not push the war against Japan into the “W” column.

It took boots on the ground to take those islands, including Okinawa which is considered to be actual Japanese land. The Imperial Japanese navy and army had been getting their ass kicked for 2.5 years. They new it was coming – the invasion. Even after the bombs were dropped, the generals and admirals didn’t want to surrender. It took the emperor to tell them to surrender.

MoreLiberty on June 18, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM

All things considered I’m still giving the W to the fighting men.

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM

airstrikes measured in kilotons once our people are out.

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 2:02 PM

It took boots on the ground to take those islands, including Okinawa which is considered to be actual Japanese land. The Imperial Japanese navy and army had been getting their ass kicked for 2.5 years. They new it was coming – the invasion. Even after the bombs were dropped, the generals and admirals didn’t want to surrender. It took the emperor to tell them to surrender.

MoreLiberty on June 18, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Saying “the bombs won the war” in no way invalidates the necessity of the soldiers, sailors and marines that preceded them. Not only did the bombers require a launch point (Tinian) that had to be wrested from enemy control at the cost of 328 American lives, but Japanese political leadership had to be demoralized by the prospect of inevitable defeat. In war, honor has a tipping point. Japan could have sustained the deaths of many more warriors before reaching it, but their stomach for indiscriminate and massive civilian casualties was far lower. The bombs were a short-cut, and probably saved the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.

Immolate on June 18, 2014 at 2:06 PM

can_con on June 18, 2014 at 1:05 PM
-
I suspect this is just rumor.
Why would we have Stinger missiles in Iraq when ISIS has no aircraft/air force?

diogenes on June 18, 2014 at 2:47 PM

A stern speech and put Horsey Face on a plane somewhere. Problem solved.

kenny on June 18, 2014 at 3:05 PM

I suspect this is just rumor.
Why would we have Stinger missiles in Iraq when ISIS has no aircraft/air force?

diogenes on June 18, 2014 at 2:47 PM

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/06/16/us-made-stinger-missiles-have-likely-fallen-into-isis-hands-officials-say/

“It is possible that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters acquired them from army bases they have taken over in recent days, the sources said.”

can_con on June 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

diogenes on June 18, 2014 at 2:47 PM

because they were in syria and lybia first??

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

“Obama ordered military action against Moammar Qaddafi under the questionable “responsibility to protect” paradigm, which actually targeted the government of another country. That’s called “war,” in any other context, and yet not only did Obama not have authorization to conduct war against Libya, he never bothered to seek it after the expiration of the War Powers loophole the White House claimed for legitimization, either.”

The loophole provided to give the President auth to act in the face of imminent threat while Congress debates was used to circumvent the “do-nothings” while he did as he pleased.

R2P and the WP loophole directly contradict each other. Dumbo went because he’s a better speechwriter than his speechwriter, a better strategist than his strategists…you see where I’m going with this, right?

Recon5 on June 18, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Why the h*ll can’t Iraq run their own airstrikes? We’ve sold them both Apaches and F16′s, and while we haven’t delivered every order we’ve delivered plenty and are supposedly expediting the delivery of more – why are they asking us to do it for them?

Get yer own happy a$$ shot down, my friends.

Recon5 on June 18, 2014 at 3:28 PM

Recon5 on June 18, 2014 at 3:28 PM

iirc the 1st f16 hasn’t actually been delivered rather is still over here and crews being trained on it.
I may have read it wrong other day though

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 3:31 PM

iirc the 1st f16 hasn’t actually been delivered rather is still over here and crews being trained on it.
I may have read it wrong other day though

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Pretty sure you are correct, and the 200 contractors that were being pinned down by ISIS over the weekend were at a base that was supposed to be prepping of delivery of the F16′s.

can_con on June 18, 2014 at 3:42 PM

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM
-
Indeed. If ISIS has Stingers I would believe thei came via a Libya connection.

The Stingers referred to in the Fox News article however imply stingers were acquired during the ISIS advance in Iraq.
-

“It is possible that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters acquired them from army bases they have taken over in recent days, the sources said.”

-
I tend to be skeptical (ie Diogenes the cynic) Take note of the words “possible” and “sources”. Fairly loose reporting.

Cheers.

diogenes on June 18, 2014 at 3:54 PM

I would not find it hard to believe they came from iraq bases, they get used against copters.
but no real way of telling yet I guess.

dmacleo on June 18, 2014 at 5:14 PM

not only did Obama not have authorization to conduct war against Libya, he never bothered to seek it after the expiration of the War Powers loophole the White House claimed for legitimization, either.

Authorization is for mere mortals, not for “the One”./sarc off

IrishEyes on June 18, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Iraq
4h
US now using F-18s for surveillance flights over Iraq as part of a 24-hour surveillance mission, defense official tells NBC News – @NBCNightlyNews

https://twitter.com/DeptofDefense

Retweeted by U.S. Dept of Defense
Department of State @StateDept · Jun 16

Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary RADM John Kirby on @DeptofDefense Support to @USEmbBaghdad: http://go.usa.gov/9xDj

canopfor on June 18, 2014 at 9:34 PM

canopfor on June 18, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Maliki getting the Booty????????????????

So, its not the ISIS Goon’s,..but Maliki’s Sunni connection (s) causing all the KAOS,……………….WTF???

Iraq violence
Iraq
47m
Report: US signals Iraq’s Maliki should go as insurgents continue to make progress, officials tell @WSJbreakingnews
Read more on t.co
=================

U.S. Signals Iraq’s Maliki Should Go
The White House Is Convinced the Shiite Leader Is Unable to Reconcile With the Nation’s Sunni Minority and Stabilize a Volatile Political Landscape.

By
Jay Solomon and
Carol E. Lee
connect
Updated June 18, 2014 8:38 p.m. ET

VIDEO:
******

“We believe that Maliki’s sectarianism and exclusion of Sunnis has led to the insurgency we are seeing,” said a senior Arab official. “He unfortunately managed to unite ISIS with the former Baathists and Saddam supporters.”

President Barack Obama and his national security aides are in deliberations over the creation of a new strategy for stabilizing Iraq, with a clear road map expected in the coming days.

Mr. Obama has discussed the possibility of using air power and drone strikes to weaken ISIS, say U.S. officials. But he has been particularly focused on developing a political process to heal the widening rift between Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni communities that officials see as feeding the support for ISIS’s insurgency in western Iraq.

Mr. Obama met Wednesday with the top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate to update them on administration plans.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), the chamber’s minority leader, issued a statement afterward, criticizing Mr. Obama’s past policies on Iraq and saying it was important to apply the experience to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in two years.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), the House Democratic leader, said Mr. Obama didn’t need any further legislative authority to pursue options in Iraq. But officials said Mr. Obama told the congressional leaders he would continue to consult with them.

Earlier Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned senators at a hearing against expecting quick U.S. military strikes, because of the difficulty of developing targets. “It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then immediately striking it,” said Gen. Dempsey.

To support the administration approach, Secretary of State John Kerry and his aides have consulted with Iraq’s neighbors—particularly Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran—to find a formula to create a more inclusive government in Baghdad.

The State Department’s point man on Iraq, Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk, has concurrently been meeting with Iraqi politicians and religious leaders in Baghdad to promote this political process, say U.S. officials.

The State Department wouldn’t say if the Obama administration was specifically discussing the issue of removing Mr. Maliki during these talks. But Arab diplomats and policy advisors who have talked with the White House in recent days said it was clear the administration was “casting about for somebody better” than Mr. Maliki.

Mr. Kerry was even more pointed in his criticism of Mr. Maliki on Monday, arguing his removal could help stabilize Iraq’s sectarian divide.

“If there is a clear successor, if the results of the election are respected, if people come together with the cohesiveness necessary to build a legitimate government that puts the reforms in place that people want, that might wind up being very salutatory,” he told Yahoo News.

Mr. Maliki’s State of Law Party won a plurality of seats, 94 out of 350, in Iraq’s parliamentary elections. The country is waiting for Iraq’s Supreme Court to ratify the results, after which the parliamentary speaker will call on the leadership of Mr. Maliki’s party to form a new government.

Mr. Maliki is still viewed as in a strong position to retain his post. In fact, many Shiite leaders have rallied behind the Iraqi prime minister in the wake of the ISIS gaining control of the cities of Mosul, Tal Afar and Tikrit in recent days and launching an offensive on Baghdad.

Still, the formation of governments in Iraq has seen significant horse-trading—and the involvement of American, Iranian and Arab diplomats—since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Shiite politician Ayad Allawi’s political party won the most seats in 2010. But he failed to form a government after some Shiite and Kurdish parties backed Mr. Maliki.

Current and former U.S. officials said Iran will be crucial a player in efforts to form a new government in Baghdad and potentially remove Mr. Maliki, and will push for any new government to be friendly to its interests.

Tehran and Washington are Iraq’s most important diplomatic, economic and military partners. And both the U.S. and Iran have pledged in recent days to support the Iraqi government in its fight against the ISIS.

Former U.S. officials said both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations communicated regularly with Iranian diplomats in Baghdad during the political deliberation in 2006 and 2010 that previously elected Mr. Maliki. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns discussed Iraq’s political reform process with Iranian officials on Monday in Vienna, according to the State Department.

“Iran can play a positive role,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to 2007. “Sometimes, on a tactical level, there can be an opportunity for cooperation. It’s happened in the past.”

The sequencing of the U.S.’s deliberations with Iraq and Iran will be crucial in determining whether progress can be made in driving ISIS out of the territories it’s already claimed, according current and former U.S. officials.

Mr. Obama has signaled that he’s going to hold back on launching any major military operations inside Iraq until he get assurances from the Iraqi government that it will take meaningful steps to reach out to its Sunni community.

But there are concerns within the administration that ISIS could continue to make military gains as Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi politicians jostle for power in Baghdad.

“The question is if the U.S. needs to do something [militarily] while waiting for a political settlement,” said Mr. Khalilzad.

—Michael R. Crittenden, Jeffrey Sparshott, Ellen Knickmeyer and Dion Nissenbaum contributed to this article.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-signals-1403137521

canopfor on June 18, 2014 at 9:50 PM