Obama welcomes new Iraqi leaders as 'step forward'

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Obama welcomes new Iraqi leaders as 'step forward'
FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 file photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki has given up his post as prime minister to Haider al-Abadi, state television reported Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 — a move that could end a political deadlock that plunged Baghdad into uncertainty as the country fights a Sunni militant insurgency. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)
FILE - In this Friday, March 26, 2010 file photo, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks to the press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki has given up his post as prime minister to Haider al-Abadi, state television reported Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 — a move that could end a political deadlock that plunged Baghdad into uncertainty as the country fights a Sunni militant insurgency. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)
A supporter of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, chants slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014. Tanks and Humvees were positioned on Baghdad bridges and at major intersections on Wednesday, with security personnel more visible than usual as pro-Maliki demonstrators took to Firdous Square in the capital, pledging their allegiance to him. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Pro-government supporters of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, chant slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014. Tanks and Humvees were positioned on Baghdad bridges and at major intersections on Wednesday, with security personnel more visible than usual as pro-Maliki demonstrators took to Firdous Square in the capital, pledging their allegiance to him. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about developments in Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, from his vacation residence in Chilmark, Mass., during his family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Obama is giving his approval to the appointment of a prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki and urging the formation of a new government in Iraq as soon as possible. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama arrives to speak about developments in Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, from Chilmark, Mass., during his family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Obama is giving his approval to the appointment of a prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki and urging the formation of a new government in Iraq as soon as possible.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community arrive at the Mountains of Shikhan near Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. US President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes to protect U.S. interests and personnel in the region, including at facilities in Irbil, as well as helping the Kurdish-speaking ethno-religious group Yazidi refugees who are fleeing from Islamic militants. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)
President Barack Obama speaks about developments in Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, from Chilmark, Mass., during his family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Obama welcomed new leadership in Iraq as "a promising step forward" Monday amid a political and security crisis in Baghdad, saying the only lasting solution is the formation of an inclusive government. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and display placards bearing a picture of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqi security forces stand guard amid tight security by Iraqi security forces that sealed off roads around a pro-government demonstration supporting Embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and display placards bearing a picture of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags in a show of support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
An Iraqi soldier stands guard amid tight security measures by Iraqi security forces during a pro-government demonstration to show support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags to show support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and display placards bearing a picture of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans to show support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Al-Maliki is taking his struggle to keep his job to the courts after announcing he will file a legal complaint on Monday against the country's newly elected president. President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and "is going to be a long-term project." (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags, to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)
Pro-government supporters of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, chant slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014. Tanks and Humvees were positioned on Baghdad bridges and at major intersections on Wednesday, with security personnel more visible than usual as pro-Maliki demonstrators took to Firdous Square in the capital, pledging their allegiance to him. Arabic on the placard at right reads, "al-Maliki is our choice." (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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By JULIE PACE & NEDRA PICKLER

CHILMARK, Mass. (AP) - President Barack Obama welcomed new leadership in Iraq as "a promising step forward" Monday amid a political and security crisis in Baghdad, saying the only lasting solution is the formation of an inclusive government.

Obama did not mention Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki but clearly was addressing the embattled incumbent as he called for Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through a political transition.

"These have been difficult days in Iraq," Obama said outside his rented vacation home on Martha's Vineyard. "I'm sure there are going to be difficult days ahead."

Obama: U.S. Ready To 'Partner With Iraq' To Fight 'Terrorist Forces'

Obama's remarks came as the U.S. conducted more airstrikes against the advance of Islamic State militants in northern Iraq. In Washington, Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the 15 targeted strikes have slowed the Islamic State's advance but done little to degrade the militants' capacity as a fighting force.

"In the immediate areas where we've focused our strikes we've had a very temporary effect," Mayville said. "I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained - or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by" the Islamic State group.

Amid the security threat loomed a potential political crisis. New Iraqi President Fouad Massoum selected the deputy parliament speaker, Haider al-Ibadi, as al-Maliki's replacement. Al-Maliki accused Massoum of carrying out "a coup against the constitution and the political process" with al-Ibadi's nomination. Al-Maliki insisted he should maintain his position as prime minister.

The U.S. is backing the new leadership. Obama said he and Vice President Joe Biden called al-Ibadi Monday to urge him to form a new cabinet as soon as possible.

"The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government," Obama said in brief remarks to reporters.

The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against the Islamic State, senior U.S. officials said, but the aid has so far been limited to automatic rifles and ammunition.

Previously, the U.S. sold arms in Iraq only to the government in Baghdad, which has largely failed in recent years to transfer them to the Kurdish forces in the north, American officials have said. Baghdad made some transfers with American help in recent days, since U.S. airstrikes began to support Kurdish forces fighting off the Islamic State advance toward the northern city of Irbil.

But U.S. officials decided to begin their own deliveries. The Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks, in part because they were outgunned and at times ran out of ammunition, officials said.

A Kurdish government official said the U.S. weapons already are being directly sent to Irbil - where U.S. personnel are based - consist mostly of light arms like AK-47s and ammunition.

The State Department sought to downplay the significance of the apparent shift in U.S. policy.

The militants have "obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms and we're providing those - there's nothing new here," said department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

But Mayville did not dispute the policy shift. He said the government in Baghdad had provided some weapons to the Kurds in recent days, but he said the need was so great that the U.S. government had to get involved, and is looking to do more.

The needs of Kurdish forces are "pretty substantial," he said. "We want to help them with that effort."

Nonetheless, Mayville said, "There are no plans to expand the current air campaign" to target Islamic state leaders or logistical hubs, beyond the Kurdish plan.

"We are looking at plans and how we can expand that support," Mayville said, adding that the Kurds need ammunition and some heavy weapons that are effective against the Islamic state's "technical vehicles" and longer range guns.

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