The Iraqi ambassador to the US has issued a desperate plea for international assistance dealing with the rise of Sunni militants across his country, warning that a failure to do so will lead to the emergence of “a thousand [Osama] bin Ladens”.
Comparing the threat to Iraq from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) with that to Afghanistan from al-Qa’ida, Lukman Faily has told a number of US media outlets that he wants to issue “an SOS, not just for us, but for the whole globe”.
The ambassador’s comments come as President Barack Obama considers the intervention options available to the US, from drone strikes to providing Special Forces training.
And while Mr Faily agreed that Iraq does not need to see the US put “boots on the ground”, the immediacy of the threat means there is not time for “long discussions” as to which measures will be taken.
Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the ambassador said: “What you had in Afghanistan, with one bin Laden – you will have a thousand of them. There will be no prisoners of war, and no rule of engagement but destruction.
“That’s the situation in Iraq, and that’s the size of the adverse impact on the whole of geopolitics.”
Mr Faily described the rise of Isis, which yesterday claimed its latest victory in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, as a “global tumour”.
He welcomed the prospect of international cooperation between the US and Iran, mooted yesterday by Secretary of State John Kerry, but added: “What we are saying is we cannot wait until tomorrow. A decision has to be made; it should have been made yesterday.”
Last night Mr Obama announced that up to 275 US soldiers have been sent to bolster security at the American Embassy in Baghdad, and White House officials said there are discussions over sending around 100 military personnel to offer the Iraqi army training and advice.
Discussing the level of international support needed in Iraq, Mr Faily told the radio station NPR: “We have said the fight is ours. We are, we have, we will, do this fight.
“But we need support and training. We need support and logistics. We need support and air supremacy. We definitely do not need two combat forces. We definitely do not need boots on the ground from the US. So that's the level of the support we have requested.”
Fears of an all-out war in Iraq have sparked a potential renewal in relations between the US and Iran, with both sides hinting at the value of cooperation to restore relative order to the country.
And while the White House continues to review its options, Iran's military leaders are beginning to act on the ground.
On Monday the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, General Ghasem Soleimani, was in Iraq to consult with the government on how to bring a stop to the insurgents’ territorial gains.
Iraqi security officials said the US government was notified in advance of the visit by Soleimani, whose forces are a secretive branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard that in the past has organised Shia militia attacks on US troops in Iraq and, more recently, was involved in helping Syria's President Bashar Assad in his fight against Sunni rebels.
The need for a response on Iraq has also led to talks between the British Foreign Secretary and his Iranian counterparty Mohammad Javad Zarif, and today William Hague announced that the UK will be reopening its embassy in Tehran.
Mr Hague said he and Mr Zarif had discussed the “case for a further step forward in our bilateral relations”, and said Britain was looking at offering assistance with the Iraq crisis in a number of ways.
But he told the Commons yesterday: “We have made it clear this does not involve planning a military intervention by the United Kingdom.”
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