President Obama has made significant moves on both the foreign and domestic fronts, sending 275 troops to Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy and personnel in Baghdad, and also announcing plans to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Though the troops are intended to protect Americans, they are equipped for combat, the White House said, and they will stay there until they are no longer needed. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the Iraqi government consented to their arrival.
About 170 of the troops already arrived over the weekend in Baghdad, while the remaining 100 were moved into the region to help with embassy security as some staff were being moved.
“I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together … and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart,” Secretary of State John Kerry told Yahoo News, adding that president is even open to drone strikes if necessary.
“We need to go step-by-step and see what in fact might be a reality,” Kerry said when asked about military cooperation with Iran, a longtime enemy of the U.S. “But I would not rule out anything that would be constructive in providing real stability.”
But Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said, “We are not planning to engage with Iran on military activities inside Iraq.”
As the Islamic militants continue to make incursions into Iraq, they set their sights on the northern town of Tal Afar, population 200,000.
“We are still controlling the center of the city, and we will defeat the terrorists — we just received new reinforcements,” said Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi military spokesman who confirmed that the insurgents made gains in certain neighborhoods.
On the home front, Obama is first traveling to Pittsburgh to visit a workshop designed to give entrepreneurs, inventors and creators the space and the tools to design and build their prototypes.
Then he plans to fly to New York City for a gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, a day after he announced plans to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Obama will attend three big-dollar fundraisers in New York to help raise money for the party, concluding with a dinner at the home of the Vogue editor Anna Wintour.