20 June, 2014
From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.
President Barack Obama has announced a plan to help the Iraqi government stop unrest in the country. His plan is aimed at increasing intelligence-gathering and improving security in Iraq. It also includes sending up to 300 United States military advisers to support the government against Islamic militants.
The president spoke to reporters at the White House on Thursday. He said the plan does not involve sending U.S. combat forces to Iraq.
Just two and one-half years ago, the president ordered the last U.S. ground troops in the Iraq war to leave the country. The order followed eight years of fighting.
Recently, Mr. Obama has been considering what to do in Iraq because of Sunni Muslim militants. Militant fighters have taken control of major Iraqi cities and territory. A group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is leading the offensive.
In his speech, Mr. Obama made an appeal to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He urged Mr. Maliki, a Shi'ite, to rise above religious differences and make the government more inclusive.
"Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds, all Iraqi must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than violence."
On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke with Mr. Maliki by telephone. Mr. Biden urged him to govern in what he called an "inclusive manner, promote stability and unity among Iraq's population, and address the legitimate needs of Iraq diverse communities."
An American official told VOA the U.S. military has been ready to direct with several plans of action. The military has held back because of Iraq's political situation. The official said any military operation must be supported by political actions and goals that would help deal with the crisis.
Sheik Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa is a former Qatari Ambassador to the United Nations and to the U.S. The Sheik offered his opinion on the political situation.
He said "instead of really opening up Iraq and making it a model for the region, Maliki became beholden to the Iranians' strategic goals in the region, i.e. to dominate the whole Middle East and the Gulf," and "he created a sectarian state."
On Friday, Iraqi troops continued fighting Islamic militants over control of a major oil refinery. Since Tuesday, the two sides have fought more than 200 kilometers north of Baghdad for control of the Beiji refinery. As of late Thursday, each side held part of the factory.
In another development, the U.S. State Department confirmed that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has taken control of a chemical weapons center. A State Department official said the U.S. is "concerned about the seizure of any site by the ISIL." She added that the center likely does not contain chemical weapons of military value.
And that's In The News from VOA Learning English. I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
This story is based on stories by VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary and the VOA News Division.
For the latest information about developments in Iraq, go to 51voa.com.