Obama increasing US role in Syria, Iraq - KPTV - FOX 12

Obama increasing US role in Syria, Iraq

Posted: Updated:
Obama is asking for $500 million to help train and equip moderate fighters battling the Assad regime in Syria. (Source: FOX) Obama is asking for $500 million to help train and equip moderate fighters battling the Assad regime in Syria. (Source: FOX)

(FOX) - The U.S. is putting some eyes in the sky above Baghdad to help protect its embassy.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is reversing course on arming some of the Syrians opposing that country's leader.

Obama signaled he now intends to ramp up the training of Syria's so-called moderate opposition after resisting calls to do so for three years since the Syrian civil war began.

In Saudi Arabia on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with the head of the Syrian opposition, Ahmad al Jarba, a day after the White House asked Congress for more money to arm and train the Syrian fighters. "In particular, we are seeking $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition," the National Security Council said.

The request was larger than expected and came as part of the administration's request for $68.5 billion in overseas contingency operations or OCO funding. Of that, $5 billion will be slated for counterterrorism overseas. Pentagon officials indicated the training would not begin until next year, would last six to eight months, if Congress approves the program.

"$500 million now is too little too late. I would say it is trying to put oil in your engine after it has seized. The president wanted to see Assad go but we lingered and let ISIS and other extremists start to dominate the battlefield," said retired Lt. Col. Bill Cowan.

Until now the CIA ran a small covert training program in neighboring Jordan. The president addressed the growing crisis in Syria and Iraq during an interview on Friday.

"I want to be very clear, we are not sending combat troops into Iraq," Obama said.

Obama has not yet authorized the use of force, but on Friday the U.S. began flying armed surveillance drones over Baghdad.

"The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisors whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Iraq's defense ministry issued a video on Friday which it says shows Iraqi military vehicles driving along the main road between Baghdad and the city of Samarra, after it claimed to have cleared it of ISIS fighters.

Meantime in Lebanon on Friday, ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb blast earlier this week at a hotel next to the Saudi embassy - an indication that the Sunni insurgency plans to take its fight to Lebanon.

"Our interests are we do not want to see a caliphate organized in eastern Syria, western Iraq where ISIS has a complete safe haven," said Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War. "It's easy to embrace the isolation, isolationist argument. But in today's interconnected world, it's just not possible."

Meantime in Iraq, the top Shiite cleric has called on Iraq's political parties to swiftly unite behind the next prime minister before parliament meets on Tuesday. That's an indication that prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's time may be up.

Copyright 2014 FOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow
FOX 12
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2014, KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation, Portland, OR and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.