President Obama gave support to a burgeoning new government in Iraq in a brief Monday afternoon press statement from Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
“We’ve stepped up military advice and assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces as they wage the fight against ISIL,” Obama said. The president also said that humanitarian missions, in conjuction with the United Kingdom, France, and other countries, continue daily to give aid to thousands of Yazidis, one of Iraq’s oldest religious minorities, who have taken refuge on a mountain in northwest Iraq.
Obama repeated earlier remarks about the U.S. role in the situation. “There is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” he said. “The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government.”
Iraq’s political system teetered toward crisis Monday as the country’s president, Fuad Masum, nominated Haider al-Abadi, a former exile and government official, to replace Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as prime minister. Maliki has given no indication that he intends to give up his power. On Sunday, he reportedly deployed special forces and tanks loyal to him to government buildings and elsewhere in Baghdad.
“I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process in the days ahead,” Obama said Monday.
Abadi comes from Maliki’s Dawa Party, and, like Maliki, is a Shiite. Abadi now has 30 days, under Iraq’s constitution, to form an inclusive government. On Monday, Obama said that he has pledged his support to Abadi and has urged him to “form a new cabinet as quickly as possible, one inclusive of all Iraqis and that represents all Iraqis.”
Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Masum by phone Monday morning and said Masum has the U.S.’s “full support for his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution.” Biden also spoke with Abadi, congratulating him on his nomination and restating the Obama administration’s support of “a new and inclusive Iraqi government, particularly in its fight against ISIL,” according to a White House readout. Obama said that he joined the vice president’s call to Abadi.
Over the weekend, the U.S. conducted multiple airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq. On Saturday, Navy jets and drones ran four strikes, taking out several vehicles that were reportedly seen firing on Yazidi civilians. Five more strikes came Sunday near the city Erbil, again on multiple vehicles, as well as on an ISIS mortar position. On Monday, Obama called these operations “successful” in blocking ISIS forces from moving in on Erbil. The group has at various times called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
At a Saturday news conference, Obama acknowledged that U.S. operations in Iraq aren’t going to be over anytime soon. “This is going to be a long-term project,” he said.