(AP) Kerry: US will support Iraq, but without troops
By DEB RIECHMANN
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that America would support Iraq as it combats al-Qaida-linked militants who have seized cities in the country’s west, but said the U.S. wouldn’t send troops, calling the battle “their fight.”
Kerry made the comments as he left Jerusalem for Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss his effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He’s had three days of lengthy meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But the peace negotiations likely won’t be the only matter discussed as the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant has seized control of Fallujah and Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province. Ramadi was a stronghold of Sunni insurgents during the U.S.-led war. Al-Qaida militants largely took both cities over last week and have been fending off incursions by government forces there since.
ISIL is also one of the strongest rebel units in Syria, where it has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories it holds and kidnapped and killed anyone it deems critical of its rule. Also on Saturday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon.
In comments before leaving Jerusalem, Kerry told journalists that the U.S. was “very, very concerned” by the fighting, calling the group “the most dangerous players in that region.”
Kerry added: “We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight.”
On another issue roiling the unstable Middle East, Kerry did not dismiss the idea that Iran could play a constructive role in finding a resolution to the civil war in Syria, even if Tehran is not a full participant in an upcoming conference on Syria this month in Switzerland.
There may be ways that Iran could weigh in from the sidelines, he said.
America’s top diplomat is in the region trying to keep peace talks on track between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry has said that progress is being made, yet key hurdles are yet to be overcome.
Kerry is trying to nudge Abbas and Netanyahu closer to a peace pact that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The talks have entered an intense phase aimed at getting the two sides to agree on a framework and provide guidance toward a final settlement. Reaching a deal on that framework is not expected on this trip, Kerry’s 10th to the region for peace talks.
Ahead of Kerry’s arrival in the region this week, Israel had said it would announce plans to build 1,400 new Jewish settlement homes. But Israel backed off making the announcement, at least while Kerry was around.
Kerry’s talks on Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah also are likely to touch on the war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.