Iraq’s ambassador to the United States on Tuesday said his government would increase its military cooperation other nations, including Iran, Russia and Syria, to fight a growing insurgency unless the U.S. provides additional aid.
“We desperately need U.S. assistance to turn the tide,” Lukman Faily said during an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Time is not on side.”
“There is a void,” he told the audience, adding that the Iraqi government will look to capitals like Moscow and Tehran for military assistance “if the United States cannot fill that void.”
The diplomat’s comments came one day after President Obama announced he would send additional troops to bolster security at U.S. diplomatic facilities throughout Iraq. The new troops are in addition to 300 military advisers approved last month.
Iraq has been rocked in recent weeks as the extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken control of large swaths of the country. ISIS over the weekend declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, controlling the territory it has captured and announced it is changing its name to the Islamic State.
Faily said the administration’s recent moves to shore up security in the battle-scared nation shows the White House is “serious” about its commitment to Iraq.
“We were never disputing the U.S. commitment to Iraq … the issue is the scale of the support,” he told the audience, saying the threat posed by ISIS is “too immediate” for conditions to be placed on military aid.
Faily said Baghdad has asked the administration “again and again” for air support, such as Apache helicopters, but has since been forced to accept assistance from Russia in the form of fighter jets.
“We don’t have choices,” according to Faily. “The situation on the ground is pushing us to choose whoever will support us.”
Faily said that, regardless of who comes to Iraq’s aid, it will take a “prolonged process” to take back the gains made by ISIS because the group has largely taken over the Iraq-Syria border, giving the extremists a “pipeline for supplies.”
Control of “Baghdad … or the whole globe” is the terrorist group’s objective because members believe “they are representative of God and no one else,” Faily told the audience.