U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Baghdad on Monday to press Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government in response to a Sunni insurgency that has swept much of northern and western Iraq.
He will continue U.S. pressure for Maliki to be more inclusive in his Shi\’ite-led government, which has faced criticism for shutting out Sunnis and Kurds and breeding sectarian tensions.
On Sunday rebels – spearheaded by Isis militants – captured border crossings to Syria and Jordan.
The strategically important airport in the northern Tal Afar has also fallen.
The town controls the main road from the Syrian border to Mosul, Iraq\’s second biggest city, which was captured by the rebels two weeks ago.
Officials said the rebels of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant took two key crossings in Anbar on Sunday, a day after seizing one at Qaim, a town in the province that borders Syria.
Kerry discussed Iraq and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL – as he met Sunday with his counterparts in Egypt and Jordan. He told reporters in Cairo that if Iraqis want a more inclusive government, the United States will help.
"If they want, they have an opportunity to choose leadership that can represent all of Iraq: a unity government that brings people together and focuses on ISIL. And I am convinced that they will do so not just with our help, but with the help of almost every country in the region, as well as others in the world who will always stand up against the tyranny of this kind of terrorist activity," said Kerry.
The ISIL fighters have threatened to attack Baghdad, but a senior U.S. State Department official said Monday that the U.S. believes their advance toward the capital has been slowed.
The U.S. is sending 300 military advisers to Baghdad, but has ruled out the return of combat troops. President Barack Obama warned that the insurgents\’ strength could grow and destabilize other countries in the region, but said the U.S. would not "play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up."
The militants seized a border crossing with Syria and another with Jordan on Sunday, and have taken control of four towns in Iraq\’s western Anbar province since Friday.
The blitz takes the al-Qaida-breakaway group closer to its goal of carving out a purist Islamic state straddling both Syria and Iraq.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei objected Sunday to any U.S. intervention in Iraq, saying that the Baghdad government was capable on its own of ending the conflict with the insurgents.
After his stop in Iraq, Kerry is due to travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, and State Department officials say they expect to have sideline discussions there with European partners about the situation in Iraq.