- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iraq’s new prime minister-designate won pledges of extra military and economic support from the Obama administration Tuesday, while Iran also endorsed the nominee, who called for an end to the sectarian feuds that have allowed Islamist extremists to seize a third of the country.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. is willing to provide more cash and military equipment to Iraq if Haider al-Ibadi can quickly form a new, more diverse government in Baghdad.

“The U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new inclusive Iraqi government,” Mr. Kerry said. “Without any question we are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government.”

But Mr. Kerry, in Australia for diplomatic talks, said the U.S. support would stop short of sending any ground combat troops.

“There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq,” he said. “Nobody, I think, is looking forwards to a return to the road that we’ve traveled.”

A key figure in the U.S.-aided effort to beat back the militants, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, spoke to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Tuesday and “expressed his support” for Mr. Ibadi, the White House said. He pledged his willingness “to bring Iraq’s different communities together to confront the nation’s political, economic, and security challenges.”

Meanwhile senior officials in Iran, normally hostile to Washington, also congratulated Mr. Ibadi on his nomination. Like the West, Shiite Iran is alarmed by the Sunni militants’ rise in Syria and Iraq.

“Iran supports the legal process that has taken its course with respect to choosing Iraq’s new prime minister,” the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council was quoted as saying. “Iran favors a cohesive, integrated and secure Iraq.”

Sunni neighbors Turkey and Saudi Arabia also welcomed Mr. Ibadi’s appointment.

Iraqi state television said Mr. Ibadi “called on all political powers who believe in the constitution and democracy to unite efforts and close ranks to respond to Iraq’s great challenges.” He faces a deadline of forming a new Cabinet within 30 days.

Mr. Ibadi still faces opposition at home, where his Shiite party colleague Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step aside after eight years as premier that have alienated Iraq’s once dominant Sunni minority and irked Washington and Tehran.

But Shiite militia and army commanders long loyal to Mr. Maliki signaled their backing for the change, as did many people on the streets of Baghdad, eager for an end to fears of a further descent into sectarian and ethnic bloodletting.

A statement from Mr. Maliki’s office said he met senior security officials and army and police commanders to urge them “not to interfere in the political crisis.” At least 17 people were killed in two car bombings in Shiite areas of Baghdad — a kind of attack that has become increasingly routine in recent months.

The new U.S. military and humanitarian missions, including air strikes, have focused on northern Iraq. U.S. officials have said the Kurds are receiving direct military aid, and U.S. and British aircraft have dropped food and other supplies to terrified civilians, including from the Yazidi religious minority, who have taken refuge in remote mountains.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that 20,000 to 30,000 Yazidis may still be sheltering on the arid Mount Sinjar.

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