Speed Reads

Crisis in Iraq

Iraq's prime minister secretly asked the U.S. to consider airstrikes against insurgents

Iraqi and American officials both say that in May, as the threat from Sunni extremists increased, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki covertly requested that the Obama administration consider using airstrikes against the militants.

The appeal for assistance was rejected, The New York Times reports, mainly because President Obama does not want to get the U.S. involved in Iraq again. In a statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, "We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions, but the government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support."

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militant group are making their way towards Baghdad after seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. As the insurgents continue their attacks, requests for assistance will likely increase. If the U.S. does come in with military support, it will have a positive effect "only if it is conditioned on Maliki changing his behavior within Iraq's political system," says Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst and current senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "He has to bring the Sunni community back in, agree to limits on his executive authority, and agree to reform Iraqi security forces to make them more professional and competent."