Kerry Says Iraq Insurgents More Extreme Than Al-Qaeda

June 19 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is distancing itself from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, pressing for a political change that could help blunt a Sunni insurgency as President Barack Obama weighs possible air strikes against the extremists. Phil Mattingly reports on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Secretary of State John Kerry said the insurgents in Iraq are “more extreme than even al-Qaeda” and are a threat to the interests of the U.S. and its allies, in an interview on NBC’s “Today” program.

“They represent a threat to every country in the region,” Kerry said in the interview, which was taped yesterday and broadcast today.

Kerry said the U.S. isn’t coming to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s aid in considering providing help to Iraq to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. He said airstrikes had not been ruled out.

“This isn’t about Maliki,” Kerry said. “What the United States is doing is about Iraq. It is not about Maliki, and nothing the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister Maliki. It’s going to be focused on the people of Iraq -- Shia, Sunni, Kurd.”

Kerry said there were no U.S. plans to work with Iran.

Meet al-Qaeda's Heirs Fighting to Reshape the Arab World

“What I said was that we are interested in communicating with Iran to make clear that the Iranians know what we’re thinking and we know what they’re thinking, and that there’s a sharing of information so people aren’t making mistakes.”

Iraq has asked the U.S. to use airstrikes to help defeat the Sunni fighters, whose rapid military success has raised the specter of sectarian civil war in OPEC’s second-largest oil producer. The conflict threatens to draw in the U.S. as well as regional powers including Shiite-led Iran and Sunni Gulf Arab states.

Cheney Reaction

In the interview, Kerry was asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration’s handling of the situation in Iraq.

“This is a man who took us into Iraq, saying this?” Kerry said. “Please.”

In an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, wrote: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

Kerry said the U.S. is the largest donor of assistance to rebels in Syria, and is “deeply engaged” in working with allies in the region, helping with military training and providing non-lethal aid.

Insurgents are on the rise because Syrian President Bashir al-Assad is a “magnet for terrorists of all ilk” who come there to try and unseat him, Kerry said.

Kerry was asked whether the war in Iraq was worth U.S. blood and money because three years after the U.S. pullout, the situation seems to be slipping back.

“That remains to be seen,”Kerry said. “The test is in really these next few days and weeks.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Elizabeth Wasserman, Steve Geimann

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