Connect with us

World

Obama sends military advisers as Iraq refinery battle rages

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

image
image

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obama sends U.S. military advisers to Iraq as battle rages over refinery
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: President Barack Obama said on Thursday he was sending up to 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq but stressed the need for a political solution to the country’s crisis as government forces battled Sunni rebels for control of the country’s biggest refinery.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting with his top national security advisers, Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted” military action later if deemed necessary, thus delaying but still keeping open the prospect of U.S. air strikes against a militant insurgency. But he insisted that U.S. troops would not return to combat in Iraq.

Obama urged the Shi’ite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to take urgent steps to heal the sectarian rift, something U.S. officials say the Iraqi leader has failed to do so far and which an al Qaeda splinter group leading the Sunni insurgency has exploited.

“We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq,” Obama told reporters. “Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.”

Obama, who withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, said the United States would significantly increase support for Iraq’s beleaguered security forces, including sending up to 300 military advisers. But Obama stopped short of acceding to Baghdad’s request for the use of U.S. air power.

Senior U.S. lawmakers have called for Maliki to step down, and Obama administration officials have also made clear their frustration with him.

While Obama did not join calls for Maliki to go, saying “it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders,” he avoided any expression of confidence in the embattled Iraqi prime minister when asked by a reporter whether he would do so.

In the meantime, the United States began flying F-18 attack aircraft from the carrier George H.W. Bush on missions over Iraq to conduct surveillance of the insurgents. The carrier was ordered into the Gulf several days ago.

The sprawling Baiji refinery, 200 km (130 miles) north of the capital near Tikrit, was a battlefield as troops loyal to the Shi’ite-led government held off insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its allies who had stormed the perimeter a day earlier, threatening national energy supplies.

A government spokesman said around noon (1000 BST) that its forces were in “complete control.”

But a witness in Baiji said fighting was continuing. Two Iraqi helicopters tried to land in the refinery but were unable to because of insurgent gunfire, and most of the refinery remained under rebel control.

A day after the government publicly appealed for U.S. air power, there were indications Washington is sceptical of whether that would be effective, given the risk of civilian deaths that could further enrage Iraq’s once-dominant Sunni minority.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a NATO ally, said the United States “does not view such attacks positively,” given the risk to civilians. A Saudi source said that Western powers agreed with Riyadh, the main Sunni state in the region, that what was needed was political change, not outside intervention, to heal sectarian division that has widened under Maliki.

Video aired by Al-Arabiya television showed smoke billowing from the Baiji plant and the black flag used by ISIL flying from a building. Workers who had been inside the complex, which spreads for miles close to the Tigris River, said Sunni militants seemed to hold most of the compound in early morning and that security forces were concentrated around the refinery’s control room.

The 250-300 remaining staff were evacuated early on Thursday, one of those workers said by telephone. Military helicopters had attacked militant positions overnight, he added.

CAPTURED TERRITORY

Baiji, 40 km (25 miles) north of Saddam Hussein’s home city of Tikrit, lies squarely in territory captured in the past week by an array of armed Sunni groups, spearheaded by ISIL, which is seeking a new Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. On Tuesday, staff shut down the plant, which makes much of the fuel Iraqis in the north need for both transport and generating electricity.

ISIL, which considers Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim majority as heretics in league with neighbouring, Shi’ite Iran, has led a Sunni charge across northern Iraq after capturing the major city of Mosul last week as Maliki’s U.S.-armed forces collapsed.

The group’s advance has only been slowed by a regrouped military, Shi’ite militias and other volunteers. The government announced on Thursday that those who joined up to fight in “hot areas” would be paid about $150 a week.

Sunni fighters took the small town of Mutasim, south of Samarra, giving them the prospect of encircling the city which houses a major Shi’ite shrine. A local police source said security forces withdrew without a fight when dozens of vehicles carrying insurgents converged on Mutasim from three directions.

ISIL, whose leader broke with al Qaeda after accusing the global jihadist movement of being too cautious, has now secured cities and territory in Iraq and Syria, in effect putting it well on the path to establishing its own well-armed enclave that Western countries fear could become a centre for terrorism.

The Iraqi government made public on Wednesday its request for U.S. air strikes, 2-1/2 years after U.S. forces ended the nine-year occupation that began by toppling Saddam in 2003.

Asked whether Washington would accede to that appeal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC only that “nothing is off the table.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

World5 hours ago

Foreign Ministers of China and Malaysia agree over South China Sea

Bangkok6 hours ago

Burmese woman rescued by DSI after 13 years of forced labor

Protests7 hours ago

Burmese junta drives car into protesters killing 5, injuring dozens

advertiseadvertise
Chon Buri9 hours ago

4 Bang Saen restaurants busted selling alcohol outside Chon Buri Blue Zone

Politics10 hours ago

Woman who told PM Prayut to “retire quickly” claims police visited her

Transport12 hours ago

Boeing’s Max 737 returns to Chinese skies

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)12 hours ago

COVID-19 SUNDAY: 4,704 infections, 27 deaths, provincial totals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)13 hours ago

Omicron variant and surging Covid-19 affect European nations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Australia, Asia, and Africa deal with the Covid-19 Omicron variant

Thailand14 hours ago

HM The King returns to Thailand for Father’s Day commemorations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)16 hours ago

Omicron spreads to 38 countries, 10 US states; Remdesivir recalled

Transport17 hours ago

Hua Lamphong “won’t be torn down” | VIDEO

North East17 hours ago

Penis park in Khon Kaen is urging visitors to hug a member

Food18 hours ago

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok | VIDEO

Tourism18 hours ago

Maya Bay on hold, but preparations for an eventual reopening continue | VIDEOS

Coronavirus World5 days ago

Health officials say Omicron probably in the Netherlands prior to South Africa reports

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

PM will decide on need for lockdown if and when Omicron found in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

UPDATE: What we know about “Omicron,” new travel restrictions to Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says PCR tests will remain a requirement for foreign arrivals

Thailand6 days ago

Thailand News Today | Quarantine requirements in Thailand relaxed, Vocal expat deported | Nov 29

Tourism6 days ago

No plans to reverse re-opening, despite Omicron variant – Tourism Ministry

Road deaths7 days ago

Thai man dies by flurry of bullets while going to get 2nd Covid shot

Drugs5 days ago

Men arrested at Bangkok airport for allegedly smuggling drugs valued at 95 million baht

Thailand5 days ago

Possible lockdown, Crypto in Thailand, Transit system improvements | Good Morning Thailand | Ep.143

Visa2 days ago

10-year long term visa scheme takes a step forward, measures approved by PM

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

Thailand entry restrictions on African countries in response to Omicron

Bangkok6 days ago

Foreigner claims Bangkok taxi pocketed 1,000 baht for ride down Sukhumvit

Tourism5 days ago

Cha-am permitted to sell alcohol in restaurants from December 1

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

Omicron Covid-19 variant isn’t in Thailand, DDC director says

Tourism6 days ago

Tourism officials welcome Czech movie filming in Phuket and Krabi

Thailand3 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism9 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism10 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism10 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending