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article imageU.S. ups involvement in Iraq with drones and more troops

By Ken Hanly     Jun 27, 2014 in World
Baghdad - Armed U.S. Predator are reported to be flying over Baghdad as the number of US advisers and troops on the ground continues to grow.
Meanwhile, there is pressure for Iraqi political parties to agree on a new prime minister with many ruling out Nouri al-Maliki the incumbent. Al-Maliki is seen by many as helping produce the present situation by marginalizing the Sunni minority. Even some within Maliki's own party feel that he should not be the prime minister.
The armed US drones are said to be protection for US advisers on the ground who are assessing the status of Iraqi military forces in Baghdad. The Pentagon claims that about 40 surveillance flights are mounted each day over Iraq and the Predators are augmenting these flights. The US drones are flown from a base in Kuwait. Iran also is reported to be flying drones over Baghdad but just for surveillance purposes.
Not long ago Obama announced he would send up to 300 advisers to Iraq. However new US arrivals bring the number so far up to 500 according to Pentagon officials with more expected.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon Col Steven Warren explained: "Some of them are conducting an advise and assist mission, some are manning the joint operations center, some of them are part of the [Office of Security Cooperation] and yet others are Marines that are part of a [fleet anti-terrorism security team] platoon."
The new arrivals include four additional teams of military advisers. Assessment teams, mostly of Special Forces will spread out across Iraq to evaluate the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and to advise and assist them. They are expected to present reports within two or three weeks. The US has opened a joint operations center in Baghdad on the orders of Obama "to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL." Later a second joint operations center is to be set up in the north of Iraq closer to the front lines of conflict with ISIS.
Meanwhile Prime Minister al-Maliki criticized the long delay in delivering US F-16 jets claiming that if Iraq had the planes ISIS could never have advanced. He said that Iraq was wrong to rely exclusively on the US for warplanes and announced that used planes will be bought from Belarus and Russia to be delivered within a few days. The US had been delaying delivery of the jets due to concerns by opposition factions, particularly the Kurds, that the planes might be used against them. Iraq's Air Force at present has only trainers and transport planes. During the long occupation of Iraq the US made no attempt to restore the Iraqi air force leaving it wholly dependent on occupation air power. Iraq does have some attack helicopters.
The Al-Maliki government welcomed recent by Syrian planes recently on border areas of Iraq controlled by ISIS, The US reacted negatively to the action: US Secretary of State John Kerry U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Mideast nations on Wednesday against taking new military action in Iraq that might heighten sectarian divisions, after Syria launched airstrikes across the border and Iran flew surveillance drones over the neighboring country. Iran also has already boots on the ground in Iraq to protect Shia shrines and fight against ISIS.
The US appears to be attempting to create a government and political situation that will restore unity within Iraq. Kerry stressed this when meeting with Kurdish leaders. However, the Kurds have used the ISIS advance as a means of furthering their own control over more of Iraq as they have occupied the oil town of Kirkuk. Israel has reportedly told the US that Kurdish independence in the north of Iraq is a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless the US is becoming more involved in trying to produce a quite different outcome while facing competition from Iran, Russia, and Syria.
More about US Iraq relations, US advisors in Iraq, Nouri almaliki
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