Iraq airspace open to US attack on ISIL: US official

Iraq airspace open to US attack on ISIL: US official
Thu Jun 12, 2014 09:18:26

Iraq has privately indicated to the Obama administration that it would welcome airstrikes with either drones or manned aircraft that target Al-Qaeda offshoot militants in Iraqi territory, a US official says.

A senior US official said the Obama administration is considering options in aiding the Iraqi government’s fight against extremist militants, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Those options include “kinetic support” for the Iraqi military in its fight against an extremist group formerly allied with Al-Qaeda – the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The group seized two major cities north of Baghdad this week, according to reports.

No decisions on action in Iraq have been made, according to the senior official.

The Wall Street Journal sources did not specify whether airstrikes would come from unmanned drones or manned aircraft.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, did not comment on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s requests for military support, saying in a statement that “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions, but the government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support.”

Iraq had previously asked the US for access to armed drones that could be used against insurgent forces, many of which have been emboldened by the fierce war in neighboring Syria.

Washington has thus far refused to supply those drones, officials said, but has supplied Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones.

Last year, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari suggested that armed drones could be used to target militants, but American officials balked, saying the request did not come from Maliki, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Iraq is requesting the hastened delivery of major weapons orders, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets contracted with Lockheed Martin and dozens of Boeing’s Apache helicopters, to counter the insurgent fighters.

ISIL has taken control of Mosul and Tikrit, the nation’s second-largest city and executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown, respectively.

Meanwhile, in the city of Samarra, located further south of Tikrit on the east bank of the Tigris River, clashes reportedly broke out on Wednesday between Iraqi forces and militants arriving in trucks with machine guns, according to AFP.


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