President Barack Obama spent a leisurely five hours golfing Sunday afternoon as his Martha’s Vineyard vacation continues while Iraq falls further into chaos.
As Obama was midway through his golf outing reports from Baghdad erupted with rumors that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki was staging a coup to hold on to power as Iraq struggles to form a new government while fighting off the ISIS terrorists’ conquest of large swaths of Iraq.
Right before heading off for his annual two week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, Obama ordered air strikes against ISIS to ward off a possible advance against Erbil in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq.
The news out of Baghdad was preceded by an unheralded announcement that the Obama administration was evacuating some, but not all, U.S. personnel from Baghdad and Erbil.
“Obama’s golf partners today are Cyrus Walker, Ahmad Rashad and Robert Wolf”
The State Department casually mentioned in a travel advisory issued Sunday that some staff in Iraq was being relocated:
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating, but the Department of State has relocated a limited number of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014, to note the departure of some staff from the Consulate General in Erbil. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.”
Rampant rumors of a coup by Maliki to remain as prime minister for a third term were based on reports of Iraqi military being suddenly deployed in key areas in Baghdad including the presidential palace and the Green Zone. The Wall Street Journal quoted an experienced Iraqi hand as saying this was not a coup–yet.
““We have noticed suspicious security movements in Baghdad, distribution for forces and tanks which if persist can be considered a coup,” a former senior Kurdish official involved in the negotiations (to form a new government) said. “So far, we haven’t reached that point. It’s only Maliki showing his muscles.””
The Journal reported troops were deployed in the Green Zone. Other reports had troops stationed in neighborhoods around the Green Zone. Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (Iraq and Iran), tweeted Sunday evening U.S. support for Iraq’s new President Fuad Masum over Maliki.
The Hill reported Sunday night that State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf repeated McGurk’s support for Masum in a statement that also said the U.S. was monitoring the situation in Iraq.
“U.S. officials are “closely monitoring” developments in Iraq amid reports of a possible coup and are in touch with Iraqi leaders.
“”The United States fully supports President Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.
““We reaffirm our support for a process to select a Prime Minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner. We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process,” Harf added.”
““The United States stands ready to support a new and inclusive government, particularly in the fight against ISIL,” Harf said. “We believe such a new and inclusive government is the best way to unify the country against ISIL, and to enlist the support of other countries in the region and international community.””