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Kerry: US will support Iraq, but without troops

JERUSALEM (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that America would support Iraq in its fight against al-Qaida-linked militants who have overrun two cities in the country's west, but said the U.S. wouldn't send troops, calling the battle "their fight."

Kerry made the comments as he left Jerusalem for Jordan and Saudi Arabia to discuss his effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He's had three days of lengthy meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kerry said some progress was made in what he described as " very serious, very intensive conversations," but key hurdles are yet to be overcome.

On Iraq, Kerry told reporters the U.S. was very concerned by the al-Qaida linked gunmen who have largely taken over Fallujah and Ramadi in an uprising that has been a blow to the Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The two cities are in Anbar province, a vast desert area on the borders with Syria and Jordan that was the heartland of the Sunni insurgency that rose up against American troops and the Iraqi government after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Fallujah became notorious among Americans when insurgents in 2004 killed four American security contractors and hung their burned bodies from a bridge. Ramadi and other cities have remained battlegrounds as sectarian bloodshed has mounted, with Shiite militias killing Sunnis.

"We are very, very concerned about the efforts of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, who are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq, but in Syria," Kerry said before leaving to visit Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah . "These are the most dangerous players in that region. Their barbarism against the civilians in Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi security forces is on display for everyone in the world to see."

He said the U.S. stands with the Iraqi government and others seeking to push back militants who are trying to destabilize the region and undermine a democratic process in Iraq. He said the U.S. was in contact with tribal leaders in Anbar who are standing up to the terrorists.

But he added: "This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. ... We will help them in their fight, but this fight, in the end, they will have to win and I am confident they can."

On another issue roiling the Middle East, Kerry did not dismiss the idea that Iran could play a constructive role in finding a resolution to the civil war in Syria, even if Tehran is not a full participant in a conference on Syria later this month in Switzerland. The U.S. has objected to Iran's participation because it hasn't publicly endorsed the principles from the first Geneva peace conference on Syria in June 2012, calling for a transitional government in Syria, and is backing militias, including the Iranian-allied Lebanese Hezbollah group that has backed the troops of President Bashar Assad.

"If Iran doesn't support that, it's difficult to see how they are going to be a ministerial partner in the process," Kerry said.

"Now could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them, conceivably, to weigh in? ... It may be that there are ways that that could happen," Kerry said.

America's top diplomat arrived in the region on Thursday to try to keep Mideast peace talks on track amid sniping between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Now is not the time to get trapped in the sort of up and down of the day-to-day challenges," Kerry said before leaving for Jordan. "We don't have the luxury of dwelling on the obstacles that we all know could distract us from the goal. ... What we need to do is lift our sights and look ahead and keep in mind the vision of what can come if we can move forward."

Kerry is trying to nudge Abbas and Netanyahu closer to a peace pact that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The talks have entered an intense phase aimed at getting the two sides to agree on a framework and provide guidance toward a final settlement. Reaching a deal on that framework is not expected on this trip, Kerry's 10th to the region for peace talks.

"This is deeply steeped in history and each side has a narrative about their rights and their journey and the conflict itself," Kerry said. "In the end, all of these core issues fit together like a mosaic. It's a puzzle. ... I cannot tell you when the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished."

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lyngtk January 05 2014 at 12:24 PM

Finally a voice of reasoning. It's "their" fight. Not ours. For once we need to keep our precious resources to our own country. Our young lives and billions of dollars. No more being the world police. We simply cannot afford it!

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1 reply
ljoanl lyngtk January 05 2014 at 12:28 PM

I agree, however, is he vowing to use taxpayers monies to support our enemy???

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1 reply
WADDLE05 ljoanl January 05 2014 at 12:41 PM

that exactly what republicans did in the frist place and only money but over 5000 lifes of our service men and women

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Hello Joe January 05 2014 at 11:12 AM

Kerry should not be saying what we will or wont do as a nation, that should come from the President.

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1 reply
eulerckt Hello Joe January 05 2014 at 11:24 AM

NO. That should come from us.

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por930 January 05 2014 at 11:03 AM

Kerry, the windsurfing idiot, has about the same intellectual capacity as the incompetent anti-American that appointed him.

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2 replies
Hello Joe por930 January 05 2014 at 11:15 AM

What does that say about everyone else? I mean these guys weild great power and authority given them by the majority, so what are we saying about our intellect if these guys are empowered over us?

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billmaske por930 January 05 2014 at 11:17 AM

That is right. Just tell us how many billions you want and we will send it soon. Insane.

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mrrplb January 05 2014 at 10:59 AM

soooo can we all say bring in the clowns. This whole administration is a circus. The as sir Hillary would say "WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE" . Really!!!!!

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stvknn January 05 2014 at 10:57 AM

Iraq wanted the us out they got what they wanted

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DICK CLARK January 05 2014 at 10:49 AM

about dam time they fought their own battles. let them burn their own flag.

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pj512 January 05 2014 at 10:49 AM

Well, I don't claim to understand all of the ins and outs of these issues, but I do know that we cannot help everybody. We lost over 4,000 citizens trying to make peace in Iraq. We stayed over there longer than we should have. There comes a time when you just have to give up. I feel sorry for the innocent people of Iraq, but obviously you will never have peace. All we can really do is guard our borders. Keep the terrorists out. Which may be harder now that Mr. Snowden has divulged sensitive information. People scream about privacy. Well, remember that the next time we have an incident similar to 9/11. Your privacy comes at a price.

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1 reply
livoak810 pj512 January 05 2014 at 11:09 AM

in bushs war.. we trained their people.. got rid of saddam.... left them billions in planes, trucks and choppers, guns, ammo ect.. built them bases.. airfields.... let them handle it... they will do just fine

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johnysails January 05 2014 at 10:48 AM

STOP SENDING THEM OUR TAX MONEY LET THEM FIND THEIR OWN WAY !!!!!!!!

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kmcc895370 January 05 2014 at 1:02 PM

So we're not going to send soldiers. Does that mean we're sending them money? Damn them if it does!

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1 reply
anidee9 kmcc895370 January 05 2014 at 1:14 PM

Of course it does! We'll borrow hundreds of millions of $$ to give to Iraq which they in turn will steal and line the pockets of the government "leaders".

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clinton January 05 2014 at 11:04 AM

Does anybody else remember the last time we supported Iraq and Afghanistan? This whole Middle-East debacle is like watching a dog chase his tail. Our memories have become so short we can't remember what America is supposed to stand for, or against! Who is the next dictator we will support now, thanks to Kerry and Obama.

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