After meeting with Iraqi leaders today in Baghdad, Secretary of State John Kerry said that as ISIS grows more powerful in Iraq, the U.S. is less inclined to wait for a political solution to the crisis before taking military action.
"[ISIS fighters] do pose a threat. They cannot be given safe haven anywhere," he said, according to the New York Times. "That's why, again, I reiterate the president will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if the formation is not complete."
Today, Kerry met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, Ammar al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric who rivals Maliki, Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni and the current speaker of the parliament, and Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who is Iraq's foreign minister. The goal was to hasten the creation of a more inclusive, multi-sectarian government. It's not clear if the Iraqis will be able to complete this task before ISIS reaches Baghdad.
ISIS militants now control almost all of Iraq's western front. They have promised to attack a Shiite shrine in Samarra, which would likely cause an outbreak of sectarian killings. Kerry made clear that the U.S. does not want to see this happen:
Clearly, everyone understands that Samarra is an important line. Historically, an assault on Samarra created enormous problems in Iraq. That is something that we all do not want to see happen again. And so the president and the team, the entire security team, are watching this movement and these events very, very closely.
Kerry said that if President Obama does order military action (like airstrikes) in Iraq, it should not be seen as support for Maliki "or for one sect or another."
Update: The Pentagon announced this afternoon that the U.S. and Iraq have agreed on legal protections for the 300 U.S. military advisers who will help Iraqi troops with intelligence and strategy in the coming weeks. Some of the U.S. troops have already been deployed, and the rest will arrive in Iraq "soon."
[Image via AP]