President Obama sent a clear message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to step aside quietly after Iraq’s president moves to replace him, as the Pentagon warned that targeted American airstrikes won’t be enough to roll back the bloody advance of the Islamic State of Iraqi and the Levant (ISIL).
American strikes have only “temporarily disrupted” the extremist group’s shockingly effective onslaught, the Pentagon’s Lieutenant General William Mayville told reporters. “I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained, or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of, the threat posed by ISIL,” he said.
On the Martha’s Vineyard resort island, Obama – who has repeatedly said that resolution to the conflict in Iraq can only come through a political agreement, not a military one – used a hastily arranged public statement to declare his personal support for Iraqi prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi and to caution Maliki not to try to use force to disrupt his appointment.
“Earlier today, Vice President Biden and I called Dr. Abadi to congratulate him and to urge him to form a new Cabinet as quickly as possible, one that’s inclusive of all Iraqis and one that represents all Iraqis,” said the president. Obama also has repeatedly said that American military involvement in Iraq cannot win the fight against ISIL, also known as ISIS, unless Iraq has a functioning, inclusive government.
“Meanwhile, I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process in the days ahead,” Obama added, in a clear warning to Maliki, who reportedly deployed elite commandos in Baghdad in response to the news of Abadi’s appointment.
Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry had sharper words for Maliki, a member of Iraq’s Shiite majority. Maliki has repressed the country's Sunni minority, causing unrest among the very population that fed anti-US attacks after the March 2003 invasion.
“We believe that the vast majority of the people of Iraq are united in an effort to be able to have this peaceful transition. We believe that the government formation process is critical, in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” Kerry said during a visit to Australia. “And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”
On Martha’s Vineyard, Obama assured Iraq of American support as the war-torn country grapples with “difficult days ahead.”
“But just as the United States will remain vigilant against the threat posed to our people by ISIL, we stand ready to partner with Iraq in its fight against these terrorist forces,” he said. “Without question, that effort will be advanced if Iraqis continue to build on today’s process and come together to support a new and inclusive government.”