Kerry offers support, but no troops for Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the U.S. would support the government of Iraq against al Qaeda-linked fighters, but would not send troops, saying “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.”

Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem that U.S. officials are in contact with tribal leaders in the western Anbar province, who are “showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups from their cities.”

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“And this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis,” Kerry said. “That is exactly what the President and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq. So we are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.”

“We’re very, very concerned by the efforts of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, who are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq but in Syria,” Kerry added.

“These are the most dangerous players in that region. Their barbarism against the civilians of Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi security forces is on display for everybody in the world to see. Their brutality is something we have seen before.”

Kerry also stressed the importance of the upcoming Geneva conference, pointing to fighting in Syria that is contributing to the instability in the region.

“This is part of the reason why the Geneva conference is so critical, because the rise of these terrorists in the region and particularly in Syria and through the fighting in Syria is part of what is unleashing this instability in the rest of the region,” Kerry said. “That’s why everybody has a stake. All of the Gulf states, all of the regional actors, Russia, the United States, and a lot of players elsewhere in the world have a stake in pushing back against violent extremist terrorists who respect no law, who have no goal other than to take over power and disrupt lives by force.”

Kerry said the U.S. will remain in close contact with Iraqi officials, repeating that “it is their fight.”

“That is what we determined some time ago, that we can’t want peace and we can’t want democracy and we can’t want an orderly government and stability more than the people in a particular area, in a particular country or a particular region,” Kerry said. “And so we will help them in their fight; but this fight, in the end they will have to win, and I am confident they can.”