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13 Jun 14. Obama considers going back to Iraq. President Barack Obama said on Friday the US was considering taking military action in Iraq to help halt the rapid advance of Sunni militant groups that has taken control of a series of cities in the north of the country and is closing in on Baghdad. However, Mr Obama said he would authorise what he called “selective actions by our military” only if the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki took steps to reduce sectarian tensions in the country. “This should be a wake-up call” to Iraqis leaders, he said. The US would not take military action “in the absence of a political plan by Iraqis that gives us assurances that they are prepared to work together”. Earlier Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric called on his followers to take up arms against Sunni militants who have taken control of key cities across the country as the radical fighters advanced closer to the capital. “People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defence of their country, should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal,” said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in a message delivered by a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala. He added that those who killed militants sweeping through Iraq would be martyrs, Reuters reported. His intervention came after three days of turmoil in northern as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) and allied insurgents took over the country’s second city of Mosul and pushed further south towards the capital. The Iranian born Ayatollah is the highest-ranking Shia cleric in Najaf. He was instrumental to providing some stability during the initial years of the US occupation, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and retains great influence among mainstream Iraqi Shias. His call to arms on Friday was highly unusual, and underscored the depths of Iraq’s current crisis. It may also have been an attempt to counter any Iranian push to take up a more prominent security role in the country following the fall of Mosul. Mr Sistani’s move came after Islamist radicals took control of two more towns on Thursday night. They are pressing on towards Baquba, a provincial capital only 50km northeast of Baghdad. Militants took control of Saadiyah and Jalawla in Diyala province, as well as nearby mountainous villages, after security forces abandoned their posts, the BBC and Reuters reported. On Thursday the government claimed to have launched air strikes on insurgent positions in and around the city of Mosul as Islamist forces hurtled towards the capital and Kurdish troops seized control of the key oil city of Kirkuk. The turmoil raised fears of a deepening of Iraq’s de facto partition into separate Shia, Kurdish and Sunni Arab areas. The territorial gains by Isis mark another front in the insurgents’ campaign to consolidate control over vast swaths of territory and encircle the capital from the north, west and east, as the Shia-led government requests international support. (Source: FT.com)

13 Jun 14. Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall will take over a US Defense Department initiative to streamline defense procurement initiatives with India. Kendall takes over the role that was performed since June 2012 by former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who stepped down in December. Kendall had already been working on the project for Carter.” I’ve actually been working on the trade initiative with India for well over a year now.” Kendall said Friday during a briefing at the Pentagon. “I’ve made two trips to India for that purpose. I’ll probably be going again later this summer.” The specifics of the trip are still being ironed out since a new government recently came into power in India. “We’ve also had some good discussions about science and technology cooperation.” Kendall said. One project under consideration is co-production and co-development of the Javelin missile. (Source: Defense News)

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