- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2014

A top White House adviser said Friday that President Obama did not demand the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in return for ordering U.S. airstrikes against Islamist terrorists who have seized cities in northern Iraq.

“The timing was [on] different tracks,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on MSNBC. “But it is the case that we have been working very hard through our embassy on the ground and through our outreach to the Iraqi government to encourage them to forge a new, inclusive government as soon as possible.”

U.S. war planes began dropping laser-guided bombs Friday on militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who are threatening the town of Erbil where U.S. personnel are positioned. Mr. Obama also ordered an airborne mission to drop food and supplies to thousand of Iraqis who are trapped on a mountain by the militants.

The Obama administration wants a new government in Iraq without Mr. al-Maliki, believing the Shiite leader is incapable of including minority Sunnis and Kurds in his government.

Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said Friday that politicians who cling to their posts are making a “grave mistake,” adding pressure on Mr. al-Maliki to drop his bid for a third term.

Mr. Rhodes said leaders in Baghdad are “making good progress” toward forming a new government, which he said would attract more international support in the region.

“So we’re continuing to encourage them to complete this government formation as soon as possible,” he said.

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