Kerry says Iraq is a partner in fighting Islamic militants

Secretary of state endorses ‘inclusive’ new Iraqi government on tour of Middle East

US secretary of state John Kerry looks over papers while flying from Jordan to Iraq today. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

US secretary of state John Kerry looks over papers while flying from Jordan to Iraq today. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

 

US secretary of state John Kerry today endorsed Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s plans to mend Baghdad’s relations with Sunnis and Kurds, and said Iraq was a partner in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Mr Kerry, on a tour of the Middle East to build military, political and financial support to defeat the militants controlling parts of Iraq and Syria, said: “We all have an interest in supporting the new government of Iraq.”

“The coalition that is at the heart of our global strategy I assure you will continue to grow and deepen in the days ahead . . . because the United States and the world will simply not stand by to watch as Isil’s evil spreads,” he said, using an alternative acronym for Islamic State.

“A new and inclusive Iraqi government has to be the engine of our global strategy against Isil. Now the Iraqi parliament has approved a new cabinet with new leaders, with representation from all Iraqi communities, it’s full steam ahead.”

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“When the world hears from President Obama this evening, he will lay out with great specificity each component of a broad strategy of how to deal with Isil,” Mr Kerry said.

Mr Kerry told Mr Abadi he was encouraged by his plans for “reconstituting” the military and his commitment to political reforms reaching out to all of Iraq’s religious and ethnic communities.

Mr Abadi formed his government on Monday in what was billed as a break from the more abrasive style of his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki, whose policies were blamed by many Iraqis for fuelling sectarianism and pushing the country to the brink of collapse.

Islamic State fighters seized large chunks of Iraq’s north and west, welcomed by many of the Sunni Muslim minority, who blamed the government for targeting them with indiscriminate arrests and discriminatory policies.

Mr Abadi appealed to the international community to help Iraq fight Islamic State, urging them “to act immediately to stop the spread of this cancer”.

Mr Abadi faces multiple crises, from the need to convince the Sunnis they should stand with Baghdad against Islamic State to persuading minority Kurds not to break away and convincing his own majority Shias he can protect them from Sunni hardliners.

Yesterday, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, head of a powerful Shia movement, said Iraq should not cooperate with “occupiers”, a reference to the United States. Mr Sadr’s opinions hold sway over tens of thousands of militants.

Three car bombs exploded yesterday in a Shia neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 29. – (Reuters)