KING ORDERS SAUDIS TO GEAR FOR THREAT
PARIS, June 26, (Agencies): Israel offered Thursday to help moderate Arab nations threatened by a lightning offensive by Islamic militants in Iraq, as the country’s top diplomat met with John Kerry. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kerry at a meeting in Paris that “the extremists currently operating in Iraq will try to challenge the stability in the entire Gulf region, first of all in Kuwait,” a statement from his office said. “Israel could provide effective and reliable assistance to moderate Arab states who are dealing with extremists,” it added, without going into specific details. Just a few days after visiting Iraq, Kerry said it was “important that countries in the region stand together against the threat,” according to a senior US official.
Kerry was holding a series of meetings with Middle East allies in Paris to discuss the crisis in Iraq after visiting both Baghdad and Arbil to press Iraqi leaders to unify against the dangers posed by ISIL. The Sunni militants have overrun vast swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and displacing hundreds of thousands. The conflict also appears to be broadening with al-Maliki confirming Syria’s air force struck Sunni militants on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border this week.
The Iraqi leader said that while Baghdad did not request the strikes, he “welcomed” any moves against the militants. The New York Times reported meanwhile that predominantly Shiite Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment to help Baghdad fight the Sunni insurgents.
Lieberman said Israeli interests were converging with moderate Arab nations “with both sides dealing with the threat of Iran, world jihad and al-Qaeda, as well as the spill-over of conflicts in Syria and in Iraq to neighbouring countries.” “Today, there is a basis for the creation of a new diplomatic-political structure in the Middle East,” his office said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah instructed authorities in the oil-rich kingdom Thursday to take “necessary measures” to defend the country from jihadists battling the government in neighbouring Iraq. The announcement comes days after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized the border crossing from Iraq into Jordan, which also neighbours the kingdom, as they press an offensive in Iraq. A statement said Abdullah ordered authorities “to take all the necessary measures to protect … the kingdom’s security against actions that could be taken by terrorist or other groups.”
The measures were not spelled out but decided during a security cabinet meeting chaired by the king and devoted to discussing developments in Iraq and their impact on Gulf Arab monarchies. The meeting comes on the eve of a visit to Saudi Arabia by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been holding talks with regional and international players to seek ways of containing the unrest in Iraq.
On Thursday, Kerry discussed the widening crisis in Iraq, where ISIL has seized cities and towns north of Baghdad, during urgent talks with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. A senior State Department official said Kerry would brief them on his visit to Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, where he urged leaders to unite against the jihadist militants. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has accused Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri al- Maliki, of fuelling the crisis by marginalising the country’s Sunni Arab minority. Maliki conceded on Thursday that political measures and military action were needed to repel the militant offensive, which is threatening to tear Iraq apart.