By John Lee.
The United States is now far more open to Iraqi requests for increased military support to fight ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Previously, initiatives to sell arms and rapidly transfer foreign military sales such as F-16s and Hellfire missiles have been slowed by concerns in Congress regarding Nouri-al Maliki’s authoritarian style of leadership.
Now that Haider al-Abadi is PM–a development said to have involved months of behind the scenes US diplomacy–the US is considering new approaches to help Iraq target ISIS, including the possibility of bombing raids closer to Baghdad. Arms transfers have already accelerated.
To date, US policy has been to give the Iraqi government limited arms transfers and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) support, in addition to training for Iraqi Special Forces in Jordan. Recently, US military involvement has used jets and drones to support Kurdish forces.
New US military strategy, involving hundreds of military advisers, marks a step change in US support for Baghdad. The question now is whether the US will see political progress in Iraq as the green light to launch air strikes in support of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) near Baghdad.
US officials have said that there is a reluctance to extend military force beyond limited strikes and assistance. A key red line for ISIS to date has been any threat to US citizens and personnel in Erbil and Baghdad. US officials said “many options” are being explored.
The situation could change quickly if ISIS make gains towards Baghdad airport, a key transit point for thousands of US personnel.