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Obama to send 275 U.S. troops to Iraq

By Julie Pace & Lara Jakes

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:49 p.m. HST, Jun 16, 2014

WASHINGTON » The U.S. is urgently deploying several hundred armed troops in and around Iraq and considering sending an additional contingent of special forces soldiers as Baghdad struggles to repel a rampant insurgency, even as the White House insists anew that America will not be dragged into another war.

President Barack Obama notified Congress Monday that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad. About 170 of those forces have already arrived and another 100 soldiers be on standby in a nearby country until they are needed, a U.S. official said.

While Obama has vowed to keep U.S. forces out of combat in Iraq, he said in his notification to Congress that the personnel moving into the region are equipped for direct fighting.

And separately, three U.S. officials said the White House was considering sending a contingent of special forces soldiers to Iraq. Their limited mission — which has not yet been approved — would focus on training and advising beleaguered Iraqi troops, many of whom have fled their posts across the nation's north and west as the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency has advanced in the worst threat to the country since American troops left in 2011.

The moves come at the White House wrestles with an array of options for helping Iraq repel a Sunni Muslim insurgency that has captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, the capital of the Shiite-led government. In a rare move, U.S. officials reached out to Iran Monday to discuss ways the long-time foes might help stop the militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The conversations took place on the sidelines of separate nuclear negotiations taking place in Vienna, Austria. U.S. officials quickly tamped down speculation that the discussion might include military coordination or consultation, though Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview with Yahoo! News that the U.S. would "not rule out anything that would be constructive."

Kerry stressed that any contacts with Iran would move "step-by-step."

Taken together, the developments suggest a willingness by Obama to send Americans into a collapsing security situation in order to quell the brutal fighting in Iraq before it morphs into outright war.

The White House said the forces authorized for support and security will assist with the temporary relocation of some staff from the Baghdad embassy. The forces are entering Iraq with the consent of that country's government, the White House said.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the troops on standby could "provide airfield management, security, and logistics support, if required." They could work with embassy security teams or operate as a stand-alone force as directed.

Officials would not say where the soldiers would be on standby, but It is likely they would be in Kuwait, which was a major basing ground for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.

If the U.S. were to deploy an additional team of special forces, the mission would almost certainly be small. One U.S. official said it could be up to 100 special forces soldiers. It also could be authorized only as an advising and training mission — meaning the soldiers would work closely with Iraqi forces that are fighting the insurgency but would not officially be considered as combat troops.

It's not clear how quickly the special forces could arrive in Iraq. It's also unknown whether they would remain in Baghdad or be sent to the nation's north, where the Sunni Muslim insurgency has captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, the capital of the Shiite-led government.

The troops would fall under the authority of the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and would not be authorized to engage in combat, another U.S. official said. Their mission would be "non-operational training" of both regular and counter terrorism units, which the military has in the past interpreted to mean training on military bases, the official said.

However, all U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves in Iraq if they are under attack. Already, about 100 Marines and Army soldiers have been sent to Baghdad to help with embassy security, according to a U.S. official.

The three U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans by name.

Obama made the end of the war in Iraq one of his signature campaign issues, and has touted the U.S. military withdrawal in December 2011 as one of his top foreign policy successes. But he has been caught over the past week between Iraqi officials pleading for help — as well as Republicans blaming him for the loss of a decade's worth of gains in Iraq — and his anti-war Democratic political base, which is demanding that the U.S. stay out of the fight.

While the White House continues to review its options, Iran's military leaders are starting to step into the beach.

The commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, was in Iraq on Monday and consulting with the government there on how to stave off insurgents' gains. Iraqi security officials said the U.S. government was notified in advance of the visit by Soleimani, whose forces are a secretive branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard that in the past has organized Shiite militias to target U.S. troops in Iraq and, more recently, was involved in helping Syria's President Bashar Assad in his fight against Sunni rebels.

In the short term, the U.S. and Iran both want the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stabilized and the Sunni-led insurgency stopped. But in the long run, the United States would like to see an inclusive, representative democracy take hold in Iraq, while predominantly Shiite Iran is more focused on protecting Iraq's Shiite population and bolstering its own position as a regional power against powerful Sunni Arab states in the Gulf.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said any discussion with Iran would concern ways that Iran could help press al-Maliki's government to be more inclusive and treat all of Iraq's religious and ethnic groups equally.

Any talks with Iran "would be to discuss the political component here and our interest in encouraging Iraqi leaders to act in a responsible, nonsectarian way," she told reporters. "Certainly a discussion of that is something that we would be open to."

AP writers Matthew Lee, Lolita Baldor and Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.

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serious wrote:
Not sure anyone caught it, but on his TV, national speech, to the nation, he swore he would not send COMBAT troops to IRAQ. Anyone remember how our involvement in Vietnam started? And we thought Willy was slick!!!
on June 16,2014 | 01:29PM
droid wrote:
It always amazes me how many people STILL believe that somehow, Obama is different than any of the other tools we’ve had in the Oval Office. The military-industrial complex CONTROLS America, people! Wake up!
on June 16,2014 | 01:46PM
Morimoto wrote:
The military industrial complex and this policy of American Exceptionalism. It's always do as we say, not as we do. All these military deployments aren't fighting for me or protecting me, they are fighting for the greed of power and money hungry politicians. The US is currently the biggest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. Just ask any Iraqi whose home was raided in the middle of the night or who lost loved ones in cowardly drone attacks.
on June 16,2014 | 02:32PM
Nalukai wrote:
Maybe in your myopic mind, but through the ages especially World War II America has been a force of freedom. Yes freedom has a cost, unfortunately, both Americans and other nationalities are sacrificed, and that is unfortunate. I doubt you would give up your freedom and the keyboard that spells out your opinion for the latter option. I prefer looking at the big picture, and yes, I served in the Armed forces and my brother was killed in the Air Force.
on June 16,2014 | 05:29PM
HD36 wrote:
I commend all the service members who thought they were fighting for our freedom. The elites, central bankers, and the military industrial complex have another agenda. World hegemony. To control the world's reserve currency for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the span of control usually lasts about 90 years and were at the end. You have good intentions, but you've been brain washed. Fortunately, a lot of people are waking up.
on June 16,2014 | 08:54PM
Nalukai wrote:
Brainwashed, thank-you ! I'LL take that comment over being plain stooped, blind and a coward ! Yea, let's just let fundamentalist Islam take over the world, that's a fact and just watch, read and listen to all the mainstream media. So what's happening in the Mideast clean brain ? is all fantasy ? You need to get real and stop living in this fantasy koombaya land of all love and stuff and realize people actually kill and maim other people for just looking at them wrong much less for religious zealot reasons. Been there, done that ! Now, god-bless and goodnight ....
on June 16,2014 | 09:12PM
HD36 wrote:
No, you need to educate yourself and follow the money. The Petro Dollar is the last pillar holding the American Economy together. How is it that America Could borrow $17.5 trillion dollars? The world needs to keep dollars, in the form of short term treasury bonds in order to buy oil from OPEC. If OPEC sold oil in Yen, Won, or Euros, trillions of dollars would come back to the shores of the US. The bond market would collapse. Interest rates would shoot up from all time lows to all time highs. Banks, holding 100's of billions in mortgages at 4-6% would see the present value of their portfolio plummet. They would become insolvent all over again. The stock market would collapse as interest rates increase the cost of borrowing. Most importantly, the US government wouldn't be able to pay the interest on the $17.5 trillion national debt. Food stamp programs, cut. Social security, cut. Military cut. Aircraft carriers filling up at docks in Singapore would have to pay twice as much to fill up. The value of the dollar would plummet even faster. The price of commodities would rise 100% or more in a matter of months. The elites know this. They would lose power around the world. How can you sanction anyone who doesn't need your currency? They will not let it happen. They will start WWIII rather than lose the Petro Dollar and the world reserve currency status. China and Russia are wise to this. They've been increasing their gold holdings by 1000%. Saddam tried to sell oil in Euros. That's why we took him out. We had to make up the WMD line to get people like you to yell at the top of their lungs, "USA, USA!!! And it worked. There's more of you sheep than people who woke up. And as Morimoto says, the military industrial complex is the profiteering strong arm.
on June 16,2014 | 10:38PM
pralix wrote:
These deployed soldiers aren't going there looking for war or combat. They are going there for support and security of US personnel.
on June 16,2014 | 01:55PM
Smiling wrote:
...dream on...
on June 16,2014 | 02:14PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Can you read? They are being sent to protect our embassy there.
on June 16,2014 | 03:49PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
He said no troops. Now it's 275 troops. What's worse is this possible move to work together with Iran. The same guys we had a red line with until he moved the red line. The guys who continue their nuclear program red line or not. This is turning into a massive goat rope.
on June 16,2014 | 02:09PM
Skyler wrote:
The proposal is sheer insanity. The reasoning for the moving red line makes me think the 'goat rope' is actually an oil slick. Gotta protect that pipeline at all costs, ya know.
on June 16,2014 | 09:58PM
Smiling wrote:
When will the United States ever learn.....we CANNOT force our form of govt....democracy....on those who cannot comprehend it? Enough already !!
on June 16,2014 | 02:12PM
Morimoto wrote:
There a little thing called oil in the ground there, not that we buy most of our oil from Iraq, we don't, but instability in the region could cause oil prices to skyrocket, and, well you know the rest. Never believe for a second the US in remotely concerned with the welfare of the Iraqi people.
on June 16,2014 | 02:35PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Don't worry about it. They will be there to help the U.S. embassy personnel, if the personnel has to get the h**l out ASAP. As shown on the news, paper shredders and fire places in the embassy, were going full blast. Most likely, items that needed to be destroyed, are already destroyed. This almost billion $$$$ embassy, the biggest embassy in the world of any country, has a roof that can support the weight of several helicopters. And, at least for that, the Bush administration did something right.
on June 16,2014 | 02:48PM
kaiakea wrote:
If the troops are going over there to protect Americans already there, I support it. But if this is a shibai like so many other troop deployments have been, then I am with Ron Paul, that we should not get ourselves more involved in a lose-lose situation, and get out before we get into deeper kim chee or cause yet another disaster.
on June 16,2014 | 03:37PM
HD36 wrote:
Now that's a guy I trust.
on June 16,2014 | 04:01PM
sailfish1 wrote:
They would be better off getting all the embassy people out of Iraq. If the ISIL were to succeed in penetrating Baghdad, they will likely target the U.S. embassy and 275 troops will not stop an onslaught of rpgs, bombs, and maybe even tank fire.
on June 16,2014 | 03:56PM
HD36 wrote:
The US may launch tomahawk cruise missiles from the Bush aircraft carrier now sitting in the Persian Gulf. They could "mistakenly hit Iran while they're at it, and follow the rebels into Syria to take out Assad. The US would then control all governments in the Middle East that threaten to sell oil for currency other than the US dollar.
on June 16,2014 | 09:10PM
DAGR81 wrote:
he know no what he doing
on June 16,2014 | 04:10PM
Skyler wrote:
No troops. Just close the Embassy & get the heck out. Their war has been going on for centuries & further US intervention is not going to help matters. They had their chance & blew it.
on June 16,2014 | 04:33PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Sorry, but this is just a tar baby...................2 trillion down the drain for what? $5/gallon gas here we come...............Da Bus is looking better every day.
on June 16,2014 | 04:42PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
$5 is optimistic.
on June 16,2014 | 07:07PM
HD36 wrote:
We could easily see oil spike to $120 by the end of this month.
on June 16,2014 | 09:05PM
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