Kerry confronts threat of new war in Iraq

Photo: Kerry confronts threat of new war in Iraq
 / Arab World

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Baghdad on Monday to press Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government to quell a Sunni insurgency that has swept much of northern and western Iraq, Al Arabiya reported.

During his visit, Kerry's scheduled to meet with Iraq's Shiite prime minister and top Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

Kerry would "discuss U.S. actions underway to assist Iraq as it confronts this threat and urge Iraqi leaders to move forward as quickly as possible with its government formation process to form a government that represents the interests of Iraqis," Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said.

He wants to help foster a power-sharing agreement in Baghdad in hopes of diluting a vicious insurgency fueled by widespread Sunni anger at the Shiite-led national government.

U.S. officials say Kerry is not expected to urge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign despite calls for a new Iraqi leader to heal sectarian wounds.

Having suffered together through more than eight years of war - which killed nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis - the two wary allies are unwilling to turn away from the very real prospect of the Mideast nation falling into a fresh bout of sectarian strife.

"This is a critical moment where, together, we must urge Iraq's leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people," Kerry said a day earlier in Cairo. He was there in part to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to and discuss a regional solution to end the bloodshed by the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

"No country is safe from that kind of spread of terror, and none of us can afford to leave that entity with a safe haven which would become a base for terror against anyone and all, not only in the region but outside of the region as well," Kerry said in Cairo.

Even before U.S. troops left Iraq for good at the end of 2011, a merciless Sunni insurgency was pounding the country with car bombs, roadside explosions, suicide bombings and drive-by assassinations, mainly targeting the Shiite government, its security forces and Shiite pilgrims.

Since the start of this year, and peaking this month, ISIL has overtaken several cities in Iraq's west and north, and over the past weekend was controlling several main border crossings between Iraq and Syria.

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