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Obama to outline strategy as US expands Iraq strikes

Update: September, 08/2014 - 11:00

BARWANA, Iraq – US President Barack Obama has announced he will unveil a strategy to defeat Islamic State as the US expanded its air campaign against the jihadists, and Arab states vowed to take all "necessary measures" to confront the threat.

In another critical step in the battle against IS, the sharply divided Iraqi parliament will vote on a new government on Monday.

Premier-designate Haidar al-Abadi is hoping to bring some stability to Iraq's fractious politics at a time when it is struggling to combat the threat from IS militants who have seized control of swathes of the country.

The United States stepped up its month-long air campaign against IS on Sunday, striking targets around the strategic Haditha dam on the Euphrates River.

Iraqi forces sought to capitalise on the air strikes, which have largely been limited to the north since they began on August 8, attacking jihadists in the area and retaking the town of Barwana.

Obama made his political career opposing the war in Iraq and pulled out US troops in 2011, but has recently drawn flak for failing to outline a strategy to combat IS.

He announced he will make a speech on Wednesday to lay out his "game plan" to deal with the jihadists.

"I'm preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat from" IS, Obama said in an interview aired on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press". He said he would not announce the return of American ground troops to Iraq, and would focus instead on a "counter-terrorism campaign". "We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat them," Obama said.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, meanwhile, said the bloc's 22 members had agreed to confront IS.

"The Arab foreign ministers have agreed to take the necessary measures to confront terrorist groups including" IS, he told reporters in Cairo, without explicitly supporting US calls for a coalition to back its air campaign.

Vote on new government

Western governments have come under mounting pressure to take strong action against IS, which controls a swathe of neighbouring Syria as well as significant territory north and west of Baghdad.

The jihadist group has carried out a spate of atrocities in areas it controls, some of which it has videotaped and paraded on the Internet, including the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

If a new Iraqi government is not agreed on Monday, this will mean a return to the start of the contentious process, leaving the country rudderless at a critical time.

There have been repeated calls from the international community, including the United States, for a broad-based government to help confront the militants.

While this would ensure that all sides are represented, similar arrangements in the past have led to deadlock that has helped undermine government effectiveness. — AFP


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