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Apr 16, 2015

Iraq signals unease with Iran general’s battlefield prominence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraq’s prime minister said on Thursday that he welcomed Iranian assistance in Iraq’s battle against Islamic State but suggested unease with the prominence of a top Iranian general, who has been widely seen in photos from Iraq’s battlefields.

Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Quds brigade of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was almost an invisible man until Islamic State’s Sunni jihadists overran cities in northern and central Iraq last year.

Apr 15, 2015

Iraq says Islamic State still fierce; eyes Baiji, Anbar fights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraq’s prime minister said on Wednesday that the Islamic State remains a fierce adversary as he outlined plans during a trip to Washington to prioritize battles in the refinery city of Baiji and Anbar province, where the militants are striking back.

Haidar al-Abadi, speaking to reporters a day after meeting U.S. President Barack Obama, portrayed a mixed picture of a weakening Islamic State eight months after U.S.-led air strikes against the group began in Iraq.

Apr 15, 2015

Iraq PM says Yemen could stoke regional war, slams Saudi operations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on Wednesday the fighting in Yemen could engulf the region in war, and suggested after talks in Washington that U.S. leaders shared his concerns and “want to stop this conflict as soon as possible.”

Abadi, who met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, also said that convincing Iraq’s neighbor Saudi Arabia to halt its offensive in Yemen could be difficult.

Apr 11, 2015

Exclusive: Iraq’s leader to seek arms, with deferred payment, on U.S. visit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraq’s prime minister will seek President Barack Obama’s help to acquire billions of dollars in drones and other U.S. arms to fight Islamic State during a U.S. visit next week, but will request deferment of payments for the purchases, a senior Iraqi official said.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is grappling with an insurgency by militants from Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that emerged from the chaos in Iraq and neighboring Syria and seized much of northern and central Iraq last year.

Mar 26, 2015

U.S.-led coalition, Iraqis pound Islamic State in Tikrit

BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S.-led coalition warplanes launched their first airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit on Wednesday, officials said, coming off the sidelines to aid Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed Shi’ite militia on the ground.

The decision to give air support to the Tikrit campaign pulls the United States into a messy battle that puts the U.S.-led coalition, however reluctantly, on the same side of a fight as Iranian-backed militia in a bid to support Iraqi forces and opens a new chapter in the war.

Mar 25, 2015

Exclusive: U.S.-led coalition planning to carry out Tikrit strikes – source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S.-led coalition is planning to carry out air strikes in support of Iraqi operations against Islamic State in the city of Tikrit, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, confirming comments by Iraq’s president in an interview with Reuters.

The U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to discuss timing of any strikes.

Mar 23, 2015

U.S. pledges to keep funding Afghans amid calls for slower pullout

By Phil Stewart

CAMP DAVID, Md. (Reuters) – The United States assured Afghanistan’s leaders on Monday it would keep funding Afghan security forces at a targeted peak level of 352,000 personnel at least into 2017 to provide stability as foreign troops withdraw from the country.

The announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter came ahead of talks at the White House on Tuesday at which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to press his case for a slowing of the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Mar 23, 2015

Afghan leader thanks U.S. troops as Obama expected to slow pullout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praised U.S. troops who have fought and died during more than 13 years of war in his country as he kicked off a visit to Washington on Monday to drive home the case for slowing the withdrawal of America forces.

In an address to U.S. soldiers and military families at the Pentagon, Ghani sought to reassure Americans of the value of their sacrifice in lives lost and money spent in the battle against al Qaeda and other extremists.

Mar 18, 2015

U.S. loses drone over Syria, which claims to have brought it down

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The United States lost one of its Predator drone aircraft over northwest Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, as Syrian state media reported its air defenses brought down the spy plane in the government-controlled Latakia province.

If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces took down the U.S. aircraft – something U.S. officials said was not immediately certain – it would raise the stakes in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants that began in Syria in late September.

Mar 11, 2015

U.S. may be unable to defend its Syria recruits against Assad

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States does not appear to have clear-cut legal authority to protect Syrian rebels it trains from attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, even under new war powers, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

Still, Carter told Congress, a final determination had not yet been made.

The remarks underscore the deep uncertainty surrounding a fledgling U.S. military-led training program expected to get under way in the coming weeks, first in Jordan, then at training sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and, later, Qatar, with the goal of training upwards of 5,000 fighters a year.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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