Secret U.S. plan to aid Iraq fizzled amid mutual distrust

The Wall Street Journal reports: Amid growing signs of instability in Iraq, President Barack Obama authorized a secret plan late last year to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against Sunni extremists by sharing intelligence on the militants’ desert encampments, but devoted only a handful of U.S. specialists to the task.

So few aircraft were dedicated to the program, which also faced restrictions by the Iraqis, that U.S. surveillance flights usually took place just once a month, said current and former U.S. officials briefed on the program.

Instead of providing Iraqis with real-time drone feeds and intercepted communications from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the militant group that has overrun parts of Iraq, U.S. intelligence specialists typically gave their Iraqi counterparts limited photographic images, reflecting U.S. concerns that more sensitive data would end up in Iranian hands, these officials said.

Islamist extremists ISIS released a video on Friday targeting Western Muslims, encouraging them to give up their Western lives and join the jihadi struggle. Via The Foreign Bureau, WSJ’s global news update.

Overseas problems continue to weigh on President Obama as Iraq descends into disarray. Obama promised that no combat troops would be deployed in Iraq, but he has sent 300 military advisers to the region. The president now must decide whether to back Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, or demand a new leader.

Political and security sensitivities for leaders in both countries led the U.S. to move cautiously to secretly set up the so-called fusion intelligence center in Baghdad. But Mr. Obama’s announcement Thursday that the U.S. will deploy up to 300 military advisers and set up two joint operations centers shows the extent to which U.S. and Iraqi leaders are racing to catch up to an ISIS threat they had already identified but were slow to counter. [Continue reading…]

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