6:20 p.m.: There will be boots on the ground in Iraq after all.
White House: Up to 275 troops deploying to Iraq to protect U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.— Donovan Slack (@DonovanSlack) June 16, 2014
Whether this move is a precaution (Benghazi) or a sign of the lack of confidence in Iraq's security forces (or perhaps both) remains to be seen.
3:31 p.m.: The already unlikely possibility of an alliance between Iran and the United States, who share a common enemy in the radical Sunni group ISIS, has reportedly been nixed by the White House.
Breaking: White House says U.S. won't pursue coordinated military action with Iran in Iraq. http://t.co/tYCeEMbSEk— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) June 16, 2014
Despite some recent chatter and some public flirtations (see below), even the crisis in Iraq is not dire enough to overcome the clashing interests and decades of enmity between the two countries. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said as much this afternoon:
Any conversations with the Iranian regime will not include military coordination. We're not interested in any effort to coordinate military activities with Iran."
That...sounded pretty decisive.
Claims of a massacre carried out by the radical Sunni group ISIS along with images of Iraqi soldiers being executed has raised greater alarm about the already deteriorating situation in Iraq.
Over the weekend, Twitter suspended the account linked to the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group, which has recently captured several towns and cities across northern and western Iraq, after the group posted pictures of what was reported to be the slaughter of 1,700 Shiite soldiers. Though the mass execution is still unverified, the captured men were said to be loyal to the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and were taunted as such in the captions of the photos.
The filthy Shiites are killed in the hundreds,” one read. “The liquidation of the Shiites who ran away from their military bases,” read another, and, “This is the destiny of Maliki’s Shiites.”
In reaction to recent events, the leading Iraqi Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on volunteers to defend religious sites as well as the city of Baghdad, which ISIS was nearing by the end of last week. What seemed like an inevitable ISIS invasion of the capital city was repelled in clashes over the weekend and the group instead fell back to solidify the gains made across other sections of the country.
Today, it's being reported that the group captured the city of Tel Afar, just west of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, which was dramatically taken by ISIS forces last week.
Meanwhile, the international community is grappling with how to deal with the chaos, which has fallen largely along sectarian lines and has blurred the borders between Iraq and Syria. Most notably, the United States dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to lend itself some military options should the use of force be determined. Debate has already begun about the extent to which the United States should get involved. Last Friday, President Obama explained that there are no plans to send American troops into Iraq...again.
The situation has also given Iran and the United States, bitter enemies for 35 years now, something recently unprecedented: a common enemy. Despite insurmountable mistrust, the communication lines between the two countries are opening beyond the wrangling over Iran's nuclear program. Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham, a prominent Iran hawk, told the Sunday morning shows that the United States needs to work with Iran to help fix Iraq, (surreally) likening the situation to American cooperation with Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany during World War II.
Lo and behold, American Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to cautiously embrace the idea this morning, telling Yahoo News that he would "not rule out anything that would be constructive" and that Washington was "open for discussions."