Among the items that need to be in that program was a mechanism for settling disputes between the Kurds and the central government over sharing oil revenues and allowing the Kurds to export oil pumped in their territory, which has expanded to include Kirkuk, he said. He said talks aimed at brokering such a deal were “extremely close” to success in March-April but “didn’t quite get there” as politicians prepared for April parliamentary elections.
If the Iraqis succeed in forming an inclusive new government, the United States is offering unspecified additional amounts of weaponry, training and potentially more direct military involvement.
Asked if the United States was also working to pry Sunni tribes away from IS, the official said a repeat of the 2006-2007 “awakening” was not likely at this point, given the strength of IS and its brutal treatment of Sunnis who did not accept its vision of an Islamic caliphate. “Ordinary people don’t want to rise up and fight a group that’s going to kill them immediately,” he said. However, if IS “is degraded a bit, there’s a good chance of that happening because most of the Iraqis in the Sunni parts of Iraq do not want to live in the seventh century.”
The US official said about a dozen countries are contributing humanitarian assistance to deal with the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis displaced by the fighting in the north of the county. So far only Britain has been involved militarily, carrying out two air drops of humanitarian aid on Mount Sinjar, where members of the Yazidi minority were stranded.