Islamic State brought Iraq leaders together in common fight: Biden

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 09, 2015 1:38 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Islamic State brought Iraqi leaders together in a common fight since the militant group declared a "caliphate" in northern Iraq last summer, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday.

Biden gave an upbeat assessment of Iraq's progress against the Sunni group in an address to the National Defense University before a White House meeting next week between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

"ISIL's momentum in Iraq has halted and in many places flat out reversed," Biden said, using an acronym for the group.

"There's still a long fight ahead," Biden said, but the group's "aura of invincibility" has been pierced.

Biden praised Iraqi leaders from Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish groups for pulling together to form an inclusive government, agree to a oil revenue sharing plan and mobilize thousands of Sunni fighters to go to battle against Islamic State.

He said Iraqi government forces have made significant gains on the battlefield, with help from the U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

Iraqi security forces launched a new offensive against Islamic State insurgents in the Sunni Muslim heartland of Anbar on Wednesday, seeking to build on a victory over the jihadist group last week in the city of Tikrit.

Biden urged Iraqi leaders to continue to compromise in the face of a complicated sectarian divisions and bitter fighting. "It is hard. It is hard. But they're doing it," he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Heavey)