Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama gave full U.S. support for Iraq’s president to form a new government hours after embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected stepping aside for a successor.
Obama today called Iraqi President Fouad Masoum’s designation of deputy Parliament speaker Haidar al-Abadi to choose a cabinet “an important step” toward uniting Iraq in the fight against the Sunni militant group Islamic State, which has seized territory and installations such as dams, military outposts and the region’s largest city, Mosul, in its declared campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate.
“There is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” Obama said in brief remarks on Iraq from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he is vacationing. “The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government, one that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.”
He made no mention of Maliki in the statement and declined to answer a question about him. Obama spoke earlier today with Abadi, discussing political steps for Iraq to take and support from the U.S. to counter insurgent groups and form a government inclusive of more Iraqis.
Maliki’s opposition to change extends a months-long political stalemate that the U.S. has blamed for giving an opening to the militant fighters of the Islamic State.
After Masoum earlier today asked Abadi to try to form a new cabinet, Maliki called the action “legally worthless” and sent troops into the streets of Baghdad.
Maliki’s rejection of Abadi, a fellow Shiite, could lead to strife and even violence within the country’s majority religious group even as the Sunni militants in the north push into Shiite and Kurdish areas of the country.
“This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task,” Obama said. “It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve.”
In order to ease pressure on authorities in Baghdad, Obama has authorized aircraft and drone strikes on Islamic State positions in the northern part of the country.
The U.S. has conducted 15 targeted air strikes since Aug. 8, using a combination of fighter jets and armed drones, according to U.S. Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The strikes haven’t been extensive enough to contain the militants or reduce their capabilities, he said.
The U.S. also has been airlifting food and water to civilians trapped on Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border, who have been threatened with slaughter if they return to their homes.
Obama repeated that the U.S. has “limited military objectives” in Iraq.
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