BAGHDAD — President Obama notified Congress on Monday that about 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Obama also said the troops are equipped for combat and will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed. These forces are entering Iraq with the consent of the government there, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
He said the report to Congress is consistent with the War Powers Resolution.
The Pentagon said 170 of the troops arrived over the weekend in Baghdad and another 100 were moved into the region to help with embassy security as some of the staff was being relocated in the area. The embassy remains open and operating.
The announcement comes after Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day said the United States is willing to talk with Iran to stem advancing Sunni extremists in Iraq, and he would not rule out possible military cooperation with the longtime enemy.
But the Pentagon quickly tamped down the prospect of consulting with Iran on any potential military intervention. “We are not planning to engage with Iran on military activities inside Iraq,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
Kerry, in an interview with Yahoo News, said, “I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together … and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart.” He said President Obama was vetting “every option that is available,” including drone strikes.
Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said, “We need to go step-by-step and see what in fact might be a reality. But I would not rule out anything that would be constructive in providing real stability,” he said. “We are open to any constructive process here that would minimize the violence.”
U.S. and Iranian officials did talk briefly Monday on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations going on this week in Vienna.
Obama’s options include increasing security and training in Iraq, though National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden stressed that would not involve combat troops. “The president was very clear that we will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” she said… see more