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ONLY 4,500 LEFT ON SINJAR AFTER 45,000 ESCAPE UK deploys SAS…US to help Anbar

LONDON, Aug 14, (Agencies): Britain has deployed SAS special forces in northern Iraq where thousands of civilians are trapped on a mountain by Sunni militant fighters, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday. Citing Britain’s trade envoy to Iraq, Emma Nicholson, the paper said that officers from the Special Air Service (SAS), the army’s special forces regiment, were working with US troops to gather intelligence and had been in Iraq for about six weeks. When asked about the newspaper report, a spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on special forces operations. Britain has sent military planes and helicopters to the region to help deliver humanitarian aid. Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his summer holiday on Wednesday to say that Britain would be involved in any international plan to rescue refugees from the Yazidi religious minority

The Yazidi have been forced into the Sinjar mountain range by the advance of Islamic State fighters into the semiautonomous Kurdish region. The United States has said that a mission to rescue the refugees was far less likely than originally thought after an assessment team sent on Wednesday sound the humanitarian situation was not as grave as expected. The governor of Iraq’s Sunni heartland province of Anbar said he has secured a promise of US support in a battle against the Islamic State, reviving an alliance that helped thwart an earlier Sunni militant threat, from al- Qaeda. Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi told Reuters his request, made in meetings with US diplomats and a senior military officer, included air support against the militants who have a tight grip on large parts of his desert province and northwestern Iraq. Dulaimi said the Americans had promised to help. “Our first goal is the air support. Their technology capability will offer a lot of intelligence information and monitoring of the desert and many things which we are in need of,” he said in a telephone interview. “No date was decided but it will be very soon and there will be a presence for the Americans in the western area.” The was no immediate comment from US officials.

After its capture of the northern metropolis of Mosul in June, a swift push by the Islamic State to the borders of the autonomous ethnic Kurdish region alarmed Baghdad and last week drew the first US air strikes on Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. US involvement in Anbar is a far more sensitive matter. The region, sparsely populated and forming much of Iraq’s border with Syria, was deeply anti-American during the US occupation. Tribal leaders and local people saw the replacement of fellow Sunni Saddam Hussein by a US-backed leadership dominated by Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim majority as a threat and took up arms. Al-Qaeda fighters flooded in to join them. The United States mounted its biggest offensive of the occupation against a variety of Islamist militants in the Anbar city of Falluja, just west of Baghdad. Its soldiers experienced some of their fiercest combat since the Vietnam War. Eventually, the US military was able to persuade some of its most diehard Sunni opponents to turn against al- Qaeda. Meanwhile, Iraqi state television says Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki has given  up his post as prime minister to Haider al- Abadi.

The Iraqiya television network said al- Maliki has “relinquished the post of prime minister.” It did not elaborate. The announcement comes ahead of an address al-Maliki is due to make later Thursday evening, according to the government. Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum named al-Abadi on Monday to form the next government, but al-Maliki had until now refused to step aside.” Al-Maliki has been struggling for weeks to stay for a third four-year term as prime minister amid an attempt by opponents to push him out, accusing him of monopolizing power and pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite agenda that has alienated the Sunni minority. The pressure intensified this week when his Shiite political alliance backed another member of his party, Haider al- Abadi, to replace him, and President Fouad Massoum nominated al-Abadi to form the next government. Al-Maliki for days has refused to step aside, saying the nomination violates the constitution. But in a meeting of his Dawa party on Thursday evening, al-Maliki agreed to endorse al-Abadi as the next prime minister, two senior lawmakers from his State of Law parliamentary bloc — Hussein al- Maliki and Khalaf Abdul-Samad — told the AP.

They and two other Shiite lawmakers said al-Maliki would announce his endorse in his speech Thursday night. The two other lawmakers spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closeddoor meeting. The lawmakers said al-Maliki also agreed to drop a suit before the constitutional court challenging al-Abadi’s nomination. Al-Maliki had grown increasingly isolated as not only erstwhile Shiite allies but also top ally Iran, the United States and the UN backed al-Abadi, who has 30-days to put together a Cabinet for parliament’s approval.

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