Iraq’s prime minister-designate won pledges of extra military and economic support from the Obama administration Tuesday. Iran also endorsed the nominee, who called for an end to the sectarian feuds that have allowed Islamist militants to seize one-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 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 forward to a return to the road that we’ve traveled.”
Nevertheless, U.S. officials announced Tuesday that they had sent about 130 advisers — from Marine and special-operations forces — to northern Iraq today to help protect the Yazidi, a religious minority fleeing the advancing Islamic State militants.
On Tuesday evening, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that the team had arrived in Irbil during a speech at Camp Pendleton, California, saying the forces had arrived in “the Irbil area to take a closer look and give a more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help the Iraqis with what they’re doing and the threats that they are now dealing with.”
Islamic State militants are battling Kurdish fighters on the outskirts of the city.
A key figure in the U.S.-aided effort to beat back the militants, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, spoke with Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Tuesday and “expressed his support” for Mr. al-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. al-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. al-Ibadi’s appointment.
Iraqi state television said Mr. al-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 is required to form a new Cabinet within 30 days.
Mr. Ibadi still faces opposition at home. His Shiite colleague Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step aside after eight years as prime minister and has alienated Iraq’s Sunni minority, which was dominant under dictator Saddam Hussein, and also has irked Washington and Tehran.