Iraq’s Al-Abadi makes in-person appeal to Obama
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider alAbadi is making an in-person appeal to President Barack Obama on Tuesday for more help defeating the Islamic State (IS) militants, hoping recent gains in the fight will encourage more investment from a war-weary United States.
Seven months after al-Abadi’s election raised hope in Washington for Iraq’s future, he’s making his first visit to the White House. Al-Abadi told reporters Monday that the increase in U.S. airstrikes, weapons deliveries and training has helped roll back Islamic State forces, but he needs greater support from the interna- tional coalition to “finish” them. “We want to see more,” he said.
The White House signaled that more aid could be coming. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden touted momentum in the fight against the Islamic State group, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday, “If there are specific ideas that Prime Minister Abadi has for stepped-up assistance, then we’ll obviously consider them seriously.”
“This is a partnership that the United States is obviously invested in,” Earnest told reporters Monday. “And our success in working with an inclusive Iraqi government has been important to some of the security gains that Iraq has realized against ISIL in the last few months,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.
Earlier this month, Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias, backed by U.S. airstrikes, were able to recapture the city of Tikrit from the Sunni militants in what was the government’s first major victory in Iraq’s Sunni heartland.
“More efforts to organize, arm and integrate the Sunnis willing to fight ISIL are going to be needed in the months ahead to liberate Anbar and Mosul,” the Islamic State’s stronghold, Biden said in a speech Thursday at the National Defense University previewing al- Abadi’s visit. Biden joked that he’s spent more time on the phone with the prime min- ister talking over the issues than he spends talking to his wife.
Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Biden was trying to make the case that it’s worth investing more at a time when many Americans feel their country has done enough.
“There’s a military campaign that the U.S. is helping wage, but it has more internal problems than I think people on either side are willing to admit,” Alterman said. “The reality is what we are trying to do is very difficult, very complicated and many people question how unified we are with the Iraqi government on what we are trying to do.”