Obama: More Troops to Iraq

WASHINGTON- The United State is deploying up to 275 military troops to Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy and other American interests and is considering sending a contingent of special forces soldiers as Iraq struggles to repel a rampant insurgency, officials said Monday. The White House insisted anew the U.S. would not be sending combat troops and thrusting America into a new Iraq war.

President Barack Obama, in a formal report to Congress, said the troops in in the deployment he was announcing would be equipped for combat and would remain in Iraq until the security situation improved. About 160 troops are already in Iraq, including 50 Marines and more than 100 Army soldiers. Some of those soldiers have only recently arrived.

Under the authorization Obama outlined Monday, a U.S. official said, the U.S. would put an additional 100 soldiers in a nearby third country where they would be held in reserve until needed.

Separately, U.S. officials emphasized that a possible limited special forces mission – which has not yet been approved – would focus on training and advising beleaguered Iraqi troops, many of whom have fled their posts across the nation’s north and west as the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency has advanced in the worst threat to the country since American troops left in 2011.

But the plan suggests a willingness by Obama to send Americans into a collapsing security situation, though explicitly ruling out putting U.S. troops into direct combat in Iraq, and how far he might be willing to go to quell the brutal fighting in Iraq before it morphs into outright war.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is willing to talk with Iran over ways the two long-time foes might help stop the insurgents known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It was Washington’s first explicit overture to the Islamic Republic to jointly work on threats that confront Iraq, although U.S. officials quickly tamped down speculation that the discussion might include military coordination or consultation.

In an interview Monday with Yahoo! News, Kerry said the U.S. would “not rule out anything that would be constructive” but stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

The White House says the U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of that country’s government.