The 10,000-strong Sunni militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took the world by surprise when they commandeered control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul just over a week ago. They now allege to control several key cities in the north, and there are reports they have taken the country's largest oil refinery, something the state strongly denies. Concerned about ISIS advancements, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce today that he will send 100 extra troops to Iraq as ISIS threatens to reach the capital Baghdad.
Diplomatic options seem to be running out between Iraq's President Nouri Al-Maliki, who has called for U.S. support, and Obama, who has been treading cautiously when it comes to intervening in the country militarily again.
The U.S. leader declined his Iraqi counterpart's request for air strikes, pushing instead for increased Sunni involvement in the government to improve integration between the warring tribes.
Washington now seems to be looking to Iraq's future without Maliki, with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq meeting with other party leaders who may be better able to unite the country.
Obama's tactics have come under considerable scrutiny, as ISIS manpower – which reportedly includes some 2,000 fighters from European countries – continues to grow. Its organizational structure, which includes an increasingly sophisticated use of publicity including effective social media strategy, is becoming more known.
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney blames the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq for the country's current situation. “America remains at war, and withdrawing troops from the field of battle while our enemies stay in the fight does not 'end' wars,” he wrote in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal.
The piece, which Cheney co-wrote with his daughter Liz continued, saying “Weakness and retreat are provocative. U.S. withdrawal from the world is disastrous and puts our own security at risk.”
It is, as yet, unclear whether these troops are in addition to – or part of – the 275 that Obama stated he would send to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The White House will clarify this at a press conference at 12.30ET, CNN confirmed.