Iraq crisis: Kerry says US drone strikes ‘may well be important option’ in combatting Isis advance

Secretary of State says US will ‘do what it needs to do to stop massacres’

Adam Withnall
Monday 16 June 2014 16:29 BST
File: The US says drone strikes 'may well be an option' in combatting advance of Isis in Iraq
File: The US says drone strikes 'may well be an option' in combatting advance of Isis in Iraq (Getty Images)

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that drone strikes “may well” be an option for an intervention to halt the advance of Sunni militants in Iraq.

An official for the Obama administration had earlier said that the severity of the crisis meant the US was considering rare direct talks with Iran, and Mr Kerry confirmed Washington is “open to discussions” if cooperation could help end the violence.

This morning saw the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) group made further territorial gains in the north of the country, with the town of Tal Afar falling into militant hands just before dawn.

And the US, UN and others around the world have expressed horror at images that emerged over the weekend appearing to show Sunni fighters “executing” dozens of captive Iraqi government forces and Shia militiamen.

The advance of Isis in northern Iraq, which has included the seizure of the country’s second-biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, has raised the prospect once again of Western intervention in the Middle East.

Speaking in an interview with Yahoo! News, Mr Kerry said that while President Barack Obama has ruled out putting American boots on the ground, the option of using unmanned drones could be “important”.

He said: “They [drones] are not the whole answer, but they may well be one of the options that are important to be able to stem the tide and stop the movement of people who are moving around in open convoys and trucks and terrorizing people.

“When you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that and you do what you need to do if you need to try to stop it from the air or otherwise.”

The US is due to meet with Iran and other world powers this week in Vienna to discuss the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear capabilities, and it is now thought that the situation in Iraq may also be addressed at the summit.

On the coordination of security efforts with Iran, Mr Kerry said: “We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform.”

Speaking yesterday, the Republican senator Lindsey Graham said the US was “probably going to need [Iran’s] help to hold Baghdad”. Security at the American embassy in the Iraqi capital has been enhanced in the face of the growing threat.

Reports of the deteriorating situation in Iraq were described today by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “deeply disturbing”.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was 'open to discussions' on cooperation with Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was 'open to discussions' on cooperation with Iran (AP)

He said he welcomed the statement on the need for unity in Iraq made by Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, who he said “represents a deeply influential voice of wisdom and reason”.

“Reports of mass summary executions by Isis are deeply disturbing and underscore the urgency of bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice,” Mr Ban said.

But while the US has positioned three warships in the Persian Gulf, including the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier, it was announced today that the UK will take no part in any military intervention.

Issuing a statement to the Commons, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain would be looking at the options available to help the Iraqi government without committing to any active engagement.

The former Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday argued in favour of a tough response to the extremist insurgency - arguing it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis, not the invasion of Iraq by US and British forces 11 years ago.

His remarks sparked a furious reaction from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who accused the ex-Labour leader of being “unhinged” and having sent UK forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

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