World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. security officials prepared on Monday to brief President Barack Obama on options to counter rebels threatening Baghdad as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki came under increased U.S. pressure to curb religious partisanship in his government.
Obama notified Congress on Monday the United States was deploying up to 275 military personnel to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the country's embassy in Baghdad after rebels seized control of the north of the country.
Brett McGurk, the State Department point man on Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Stephen Beecroft met with Maliki in Baghdad on Monday as part of a U.S. effort to prod leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated administration to govern in a less sectarian manner, officials said.
U.S. officials also talked to Iranians about the situation in Iraq on the sidelines of Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna on Monday, sources familiar with the matter said.
"These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq's future over the heads of the Iraqi people," a U.S. official said. "We will discuss how ISIL threatens many countries in the region, including Iran, and the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda."
Obama said last week that before he ordered any use of U.S. military force against rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), he would want to see some sign that Maliki was taking steps to broaden the Shi'ite-dominated government.
The stunning onslaught by ISIL rebels, joined by disaffected Sunni leaders alienated by Maliki's government, is threatening to dismember Iraq and unleash all-out sectarian warfare across a crescent of the Middle East, with no regard for national borders that the fighters reject.
NO MILITARY COORDINATION WITH IRAN
But U.S. officials dismissed the notion that discussions on the sidelines of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna might deal with U.S.-Iranian military cooperation.
"There is absolutely no intention and no plan to coordinate military activity between the United States and Iran," said Rear Admiral John Kirby, a top Pentagon spokesman. "There are no plans to have consultations with Iran about military activities in Iraq."
The United States wants to keep any discussions with Iran about Iraq separate from their nuclear negotiations to avoid giving Tehran more leverage in the talks over its atomic program, U.S. officials said.
However, Washington may find it hard to keep the two issues apart in part because Tehran is likely to push any advantage it has in the wider negotiations with the United States and five major powers over its nuclear program.
"The White House is agonizing over this," said one U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is in Vienna for just one day, two U.S. officials said, noting he was the logical person to undertake a conversation with the Iranians about Iraq if the White House decided to do so.
Burns, the No. 2 U.S. diplomat, led the secret U.S.-Iranian negotiations that helped bring about last year's Nov. 24 interim deal under which Iran got temporary relief from economic sanctions in exchange for steps to rein in its nuclear program.Last Mod: 17 Haziran 2014, 09:35