Obama stands firm on political solution in Iraq

Washington: Amid reports that more than one million Iraqis have fled their homes as Sunni militants continued their advance towards Baghdad, US President Barack Obama has again asked Iraqi leaders to come up with a political solution.

Because “if they don’t, there won’t be a military solution to the problem”, Obama told CNN in an interview to be aired Monday.

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Obama, who has baulked at military intervention in Ukraine and Syria, Thursday ruled out a return of US troops in a combat role in Iraq though he agreed to send 300 military advisers to assist Baghdad.

“We gave Iraq the chance to have an inclusive democracy,” he said, asking Iraq to create a command structure that includes Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, the country’s three chief groups.

“If we don’t see Sunni, Shia and Kurd representation in the military command structure, if we don’t see Sunni, Shia and Kurd political support for what we’re doing, we won’t do it,” Obama said.

Senior US officials cited by CNN said the Obama administration believes that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who leads a government dominated by Shias is not the leader Iraq needs to unify the country and end sectarian tensions.

The first of US advisers are expected to arrive in Iraq Saturday, CNN reported citing a senior defence official.

But the US has not reached an agreement with Iraq to provide legal protection to the US military advisers.

Meanwhile Sunni militants – called the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, an Al Qaeda splinter group – overran one of the last government-held crossings on the Syrian border after a fierce battle Friday, according to a New York Times report from Baghdad.

The fighting occurred as some clerics during Friday prayers signalled that they wanted parliament to hasten the formation of a new government and reach across sectarian and ethnic divides, it said.

In another report from Baghdad, the NYT said “behind the image of savagery” that ISIS “militants present to the world, as casual executioners who kill helpless prisoners and behead even rival jihadis, lies a disciplined organization”.

It “employs social media and sophisticated financial strategies in the funding and governance of the areas it has conquered”.

More than one million Iraqis have been forced from their homes by conflict this year, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

An estimated 500,000 people fled Iraq’s second largest city Mosul last week after it fell to ISIS fighters.

Already, a half-million people were displaced from Iraq’s western Anbar province, where Sunni militants have been dominant since early this year.