During remarks to reporters in Jerusalem on January 5, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will help Iraq’s government in its fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants who have overrun the cities of Fallujah (shown in photo) and Ramadi — but that we will not send troops back to Iraq.
Kerry’s comments came as he was engaged in a Middle East trip to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia from January 1-6.
During his press conference at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem on January 5, a reporter asked Kerry:
What specific steps is the Administration prepared to take to help the Iraqi tribes or the Iraqi Government roll back the al-Qaida advance in western and northern Iraq? Nobody is suggesting the U.S. send ground troops, but would the United States be willing to carry out drone strikes from bases outside Iraq? Would you provide arms to the tribes?
Kerry declined to get into specifics but, with a penchant for using superlatives, replied:
First of all, we are following the events in Anbar province very, very closely, obviously. We’re very, very concerned by the efforts of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, who are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq but in Syria.
I will not go into the details except to say that we’re in contact with tribal leaders from Anbar province whom we know who are showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups from their cities. And this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the President and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq. So we are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.
The United States has provided Iraq with 75 Hellfire missiles and plans to send an unstated numbers of ScanEagle drones by March.
The Washington Post identified the militants who have made inroads in Anbar province as members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and said Kerry called them “the most dangerous players” in the region.
The Post noted that ISIS was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq but was renamed to demonstrate the group’s growing ambitions. The influence of ISIS has been felt across not only Iraq, but also Syria and Lebanon.
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