As Iraq violence grows, U.S. sends more intelligence officers

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 25, 2014 4:35pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said.

A high-level Pentagon team is now in Iraq to assess possible assistance for Iraqi forces in their fight against radical jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group reconstituted from an earlier incarnation of al Qaeda, said two current government officials and one former U.S. official familiar with the matter.

The powerful ISIL, which seeks to impose strict sharia law in the Sunni majority populated regions of Iraq, now boasts territorial influence stretching from Iraq's western Anbar province to northern Syria, operating in some areas close to Baghdad, say U.S. officials.

Senior U.S. policy officials, known as the "Deputies Committee," met in Washington this week to discuss possible responses to the deteriorating security outlook in Iraq, said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

The source did not know the outcome of the meeting.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment.

The meetings underscore how Iraq's instability is posing a new foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama, who celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops more than two years ago. Despite the concern, officials said it remains unclear whether Obama will commit significant new resources to the conflict.

Four months after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared war on Sunni militants in Iraq's western Anbar province, the fighting has descended into brutal atrocities, often caught on video and in photographs by both militants and Iraqi soldiers.

Iraqi soldiers say they are bogged down in a slow, vicious fight with ISIL and other Sunni factions in the city of Ramadi and around nearby Falluja.

LIMITED OPTIONS

One former and two current U.S. security officials said the number of U.S. intelligence personnel in Baghdad had already begun to rise but that the numbers remained relatively small.

"It's more than before, but not really a lot," said one former official with knowledge of the matter.

Much of the pressure to do more is coming from the U.S. military, the former official said, but it is unclear if the White House wants to get more deeply involved.

After ending nearly nine years of war in Iraq, the United States has limited military options inside the country. About 100 U.S. military personnel remain, overseeing weapons sales and cooperation with Iraqi security forces.

The U.S. government has rushed nearly 100 Hellfire missiles, M4 rifles, surveillance drones and 14 million rounds of ammunition to the Iraqi military since January, U.S. officials said. The Obama administration has also started training Iraqi special forces in neighboring Jordan.

Before the U.S. military withdrew, it trained, equipped and conducted operations with Iraqi special forces.

Staff from the Pentagon's Central Command are working closely with the Iraqi military but have advised it against launching major operations due to concerns Iraqi forces are not prepared for such campaigns, the former U.S. official said.

In Anbar, militants have a major presence in Falluja, while in Ramadi there is a stalemate, with territory divided among Iraqi government forces, ISIL and other Sunni armed groups.

In testimony before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in February, Brett McGurk, the State Department's top official on Iraq, described how convoys of up to 100 trucks, mounted with heavy weapons and flying al Qaeda flags, moved into Ramadi and Falluja on New Year's Day.

Local forces in Ramadi subsequently succeeded in pushing militants back, but the situation in Falluja remained "far more serious," McGurk said.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and by Ned Parker in Baghdad. Editing by Jason Szep and Ross Colvin)

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Comments (38)
cristo52 wrote:
Just let them eat each other alive and when they start landing on our beaches, have the Feds hand out all that ammo they’ve been hoarding. As the nun said to the priest outside St. Patrick’s who had just admonished them, saying, “You’re not collecting for guns, are you?” Sister replierd, “Oh, no, Father, we have all the guns we needs. We’re collecting donations for the bullets.”

Apr 25, 2014 5:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
This is a more sound move than sending US combat troops who would be seen as infidel occupiers, become targets, increase US costs, and increase US casualties. From the beginning, this has been an “intelligence war,” but we have collected too much and analysed too little.

Under Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda has been moving into position to strike the oil and gas infrastructure of north Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Middle East. US and NATO economies and militaries depend on oil and gas, so attacks hurt western forces and economic abilities to develop and pay for western technological tools. In addition, it raises prices for oil and gas, raises income for Sunni Arab countries whose citizens donate to al Qaeda and similar groups, damages western economies and militaries, and lets the West pay for both sides in the war. It is an effective strategy, and the West needs better “intelligence” for more “intelligent” responses.

Apr 25, 2014 6:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
PhaTz wrote:
First of all, Bandar Bush (Ex Saudi Intel Minister) has been focused on causing trouble with Iraq and Syria for the express reason to maintain the current oil pricing. He was caught red handed buying chemical weapons from the US and then distributing them to is Syrian Merc’s ! Secondly, he is spreading Saudi cash in Iraq to destabilize the country so cheap oil doesn’t hit US Streets. He was responsible for the booting out of many US Corporation in Saudi Arabia.

Obama recently travel to Saudi Arabia to kiss the backside of the ROYAL Prince.. And try to rebuild bridges he burnt when Obama started supply weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood.. and Um.. the last time I checked.. Bandar Bush was not friends with them either.. So I say to hell with OPEC.. Its time for OIL FREEDOM !

Apr 25, 2014 6:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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