ISIL advances as Parliament plans 1st July meeting
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces have made further gains over the past few days forcing Iraqi Army (IA) units out of Tal Afar in the north-west of the country as well as Rutba and Qaim in the west. ISIL gunmen also attacked an IA convoy on the Kayash Highway, northeast of Al Hillah and south of Baghdad.
On the Syrian border, ISIL fighters have taken the border crossing at Anbar and, in a further sign that the fighting is becoming regional, Syrian jets are reported to have attacked warehouses in Qaim in western Anbar. ISIL now controls all border crossings with Jordan and Syria.
ISIL announced today that they had fully captured Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been visiting Baghdad and has secured an agreement that the Parliament will meet on 1st July to elect a Speaker, President and Prime Minister. This is what he said in the press conference:
“It is incumbent on Iraq’s leaders to convene parliament on time, and I might say to you that every single leader today committed that they are dedicated to meeting the July 1st deadline for the meeting of the representatives, the parliament. It is also incumbent on them to choose a speaker immediately, then to choose a president, and finally a prime minister and a cabinet. And to do so, they must effect a unity that rises above the traditional divisions that have torn the government apart”.
The full text of the Secretary of State’s press conference yesterday afternoon at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is as follows:
“Now, President Obama asked me to visit Baghdad today to demonstrate America’s support for Iraq and its people during this time of crisis. This is clearly a moment when the stakes for Iraq’s future could not be clearer. ISIL’s campaign of terror, their grotesque acts of violence and repressive ideology pose a grave danger to Iraq’s future. ISIL is not, as it claims, fighting on behalf of Sunnis. ISIL is not fighting for a stronger Iraq; quite the contrary. ISIL is fighting to divide Iraq and to destroy Iraq.
So this is a critical moment for Iraq’s future. It is a moment of decision for Iraq’s leaders, and it’s a moment of great urgency. Iraq faces an existential threat, and Iraq’s leaders have to meet that threat with the incredible urgency that it demands. The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks. And the future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq’s leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL – not next week, not next month, but now.
In each of my meetings today, I stressed that urgency and I stressed the responsibility of Iraq’s leaders to act, whether the meeting with Prime Minister Maliki, with speaker Nujaifi, with ISCI leader Hakim, or Foreign Minister Zebari, I emphasize that defending Iraq against ISIL depends largely on their ability – all of them – to form a new government and to do it quickly. It is essential that Iraq’s leaders form a genuinely inclusive government as rapidly as possible within their own constitutional framework.
It’s also crystal-clear that ISIL’s rise puts more than one country at risk. ISIL threatens the stability of the entire region and it is a threat also to the United States and to the West – self-declared. Iraq’s neighbors can bolster Iraq’s security, as well as their own, by supporting the formation of an Iraqi government that represents all Iraqis and also respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Now, President Obama has stated repeatedly that he will do what is necessary and what is in our national interest to confront ISIL and the threat that it poses to the security of the region and to our security in the long run. None of us should have to be reminded that a threat left unattended far beyond our shores can have grave, tragic consequences.
The President understands very clearly that supporting Iraq in the struggle at this time is part of meeting our most important responsibility: The security of the American people, fighting terrorism, and standing by our allies. Iraq is a strategic partner of the United States, with shared interests in countering the scourge of terrorism, maintaining stability of the global energy markets, and easing the sectarian polarization that plagues this region. That’s how we have to understand the stakes here in Iraq, and that’s why we have to understand the serious threat that ISIL poses to Iraq and the urgent need for Iraq’s security forces to therefore be well-supplied, well-equipped, and well-trained. That is why President Obama has prepared a range of options for Iraq, including enhanced intelligence, joint operation centers, steady supplies of munitions, and advisors to work with and support some of Iraq’s best units.
With this support, we are living up to our Strategic Framework Agreement. The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq’s leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective. It will allow Iraqi security forces to confront ISIL more effectively and in a way that respects Iraq’s sovereignty while also respecting America’s and the region’s vital interests. The Strategic Framework Agreement also commits the United States to support Iraq’s constitutional process. That is specifically stated, and that is part of why I stressed in today’s meetings the importance of keeping the constitutional timeline and of forming a new government as soon as possible, because forming a new government is critical to the ability of Iraq to be able to make progress and be successful.
It is incumbent on Iraq’s leaders to convene parliament on time, and I might say to you that every single leader today committed that they are dedicated to meeting the July 1st deadline for the meeting of the representatives, the parliament. It is also incumbent on them to choose a speaker immediately, then to choose a president, and finally a prime minister and a cabinet. And to do so, they must effect a unity that rises above the traditional divisions that have torn the government apart.
So I encouraged the leaders today to start this process and to move along a path that is outlined by Iraq’s constitution itself. Nothing that the United States through President Obama sending me here today – nothing that we asked them to do or offered is outside of the constitutional process or without complete respect for the choices of the leaders of Iraq. The United States is not choosing any leader; we are not making any preconditions with respect to who can or can’t take part. That is up to Iraq. It’s up to the people of Iraq to make that decision. And what we asked for today is also very much in line with the message that Grand Ayatollah Sistani offered just a few days ago. As I told Iraqi leaders today, and as I’ve made clear to my counterparts in the region, neither the United States nor any other country has the right to pick who leads Iraq. That is up to the people of Iraq. So it is when all of Iraq’s people can shape Iraq’s future, when the legitimate concerns and aspirations of all of Iraq’s communities – Sunni, Shia, Kurd – are all respected, that is when Iraq is strongest. And that is when Iraq will be the most secure.
We are here today to demonstrate our support for those aspirations and to show our commitment to a stable and sovereign Iraq, which is what so many soldiers and others invested – many of them with their lives – to achieve in the interests of the people of Iraq and of this region. We stand with the people of Iraq as they meet this moment of great challenge in their effort to build a stronger, more viable, more prosperous, more representative Iraq in the days to come. So I’d be delighted to take any questions.”