President Barack Obama denied U.S. air support to the elected government of Iraq, which is reeling in the face of a large-scale jihadi invasion from the Syrian desert.
The invasion comes three years after Obama pulled out the last U.S contingent from a then-quiet Iraq.
From 2003 to 2011, 4,485 U.S. soldiers were killed by jihadis and their allies as the U.S. helped establish Iraq’s democratic government. A 2007 “surge” offensive established a shaky peace, and helped reconciliation talks.
But Obama’s 2011 pullout completed his 2008 campaign promise, which Obama has frequently congratulated himself for doing.
Obama’s rejection of support was announced by a late-night statement from his press secretary.
The statement notably ignored the Iraq government’s request for a U.S. force of high-tech airpower — such as aircraft and drones — that could destroy jihadi groups as they advance in the open desert. (RELATED: Al-Qaida Establishes Islamic Caliphate Across Syria, Northern Iraq)
The letter instead offered reassurances of support, the promise of future financial aid and the promise of some military supplies.
If approved, U.S. airpower would boost the morale of the damaged Iraqi military, and give them time to organize a counter-attack against the jihad army, which is a regional spin-off of the al-Qaida force.
The jihadi force, named the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, captured the country’s second largest city this week. It has also captured an armored column and several smaller cities in the western part of the country, and is threatening to wreck the nation’s major source of revenue, its oil refineries.
Without U.S. air support, Iraq may be forced to ask for combat support from the Iranian military.
“We offer our condolences to the families of those killed and underscore our commitment to assist the Iraqi people as they confront the threat… [and] the United States will stand with Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum as they forge the national unity necessary to succeed in the fight,” said Obama’s statement.
“We will work with Congress to support the new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, which will provide flexibility and resources to help Iraq respond to emerging needs,” it added.
“We will also continue to provide, and as required increase, assistance to the government of Iraq to help build Iraq’s [military] capacity,” the note said.
Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, despite the hard-fought victory by U.S. forces, is a reason for pride, Obama’s press secretary declared June 10.
“I would put ending the war in Iraq, responsibly winding down the war in Afghanistan, and decimating and destroying core al-Qaida… are a handful of accomplishments that certainly this president and this commander-in-chief are proud of,” Josh Earnest said.