Iraq prime minister Nouri-al-Maliki held a national unity meeting on Shia and Sunni leaders on late Tuesday. Maliki sought to calm rising tensions in capital Baghdad as Sunni militants belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) tried to take control over the country’s biggest oil refinery in Baiji. Reuters reported Wednesday that ISIS has controlled 75% of the refinery. But Iraq Army claimed that they have defeated militants there.
Will U.S. take military action in Iraq?
The meeting was held after intense pressure from the U.S. president Barack Obama. The Obama administration pressed Maliki to reach out to his political foes if he wanted the U.S. to provider more assistance in Iraq’s fight against ISIS, who are advancing toward Baghdad. The meeting on Tuesday was attended by some of the country’s top Shia parliamentarians and three prominent Sunnis, reports The Washington Post. After the meeting, Maliki issued a statement, which pledged to ban the carrying of weapons on streets by civilians, and end the sectarian hate speech.
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It’s still unclear whether the meeting would do enough to satisfy President Obama’s demand that the Iraq PM show more inclusiveness for Sunnis before the U.S. would consider military action to support Maliki’s government. U.S. lawmakers fear that any further military support to Maliki would further consolidate his hold on power. Maliki has been blamed for fueling the sectarian tensions. Moreover, Sunnis are unlikely to be mollified by the meeting as it included leaders whose support in the Sunni community is questionable.
Dangers loom on Iraq capital
White House still has’t decided how to respond to the massive assault by Al-Qaeda inspired ISIS, who have swept through a large part of central and northern Iraq. U.S. president Obama has dispatched 275 Special Operations forces to Iraq to secure U.S. assets. On Wednesday, Iraq prime minister Nouri-al-Maliki urged people of the country to unite against ISIS, and appealed the volunteers to fight against Sunni militants.
Danger is looming on Baghdad as ISIS militants fought hard to take control of Baquba town, just 40 miles away from Iraqi capital. ISIS attacked a jail in Baquba, killing 44 prisoners. Meanwhile, Iraq military keeps claiming that Baquba is still in their control. Many Shia civilians have also taken up arms against the ISIS after the Grand Shiite cleric Ayatollah al-Sistani urged people to defend Baghdad.