Kerry: U.S. Backs Iraq, But Won’t Consider Boots on the Ground

A surge in violence from al Qaeda militants sweeps the country

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While bombings in Baghdad killed at least 34 people Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said America would help Iraq battle the al Qaeda militants that have overtaken two of the nation’s western cities — but emphasized that the fight belonged to them.

Kerry said that the U.S. was concerned over the mounting violence in the Anbar province, where al Qaeda militants have overtaken the capital city of Ramadi as well as Fallujah, USA Today reports. But he cautioned that intervention was not an option.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The two cities are near the border of Syria and Jordan, where a Sunni insurgency rose up against American troops and the Iraqi government following the 2003 invasion. Fallujah is remembered as the backdrop of the death of four American contractors, who were killed by insurgents in 2004 and their bodies hung f rom a bridge. Al Qaeda militants have spilled over from the war in Syria.

Iraq has been mired in sectarian violence since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government cracked down on a deadly Sunni protest camp late last month.

A series of bombs in Baghdad killed at least 20 people Sunday, USA Today reports. Among the explosions were two parked car bombs that exploded near a restaurant and tea house in the capital city’s Shiite northern Shaab neighborhood. The attack killed 10 people and wounded 26, officials say. A third parked car bomb killed five and wounded 10 in the Shiite eastern district of Sadr City, while another blast in the central Bab al-Muadham neighborhood killed three and wounded six. Two more attacks also left two civilians dead and 13 injured.

[USA Today]