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POLITICS: PennAve

White House week ahead: The future of Iraq hangs in the balance

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Michelle Obama,John Kerry,Iraq,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Middle East

The future of Iraq and just how far the President Obama is willing to re-engage there will loom over the White House for a third week as Obama juggles a mix of domestic, foreign and sports-related events on his calendar.

In an interview that aired on CNN's “New Day” Monday, Obama said Iraqi leaders must first agree to put their sectarian differences aside before any military solution has a chance of working.

“Part of the task now is to see if Iraqi leaders are prepared to rise above sectarian motivations, come together, compromise,” Obama said. “If they can’t, there’s not going to be a military solution to this problem. There’s no amount of American firepower that’s going to hold the country together.”

Obama sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Iraq to try to persuade the country's sectarian leaders to join forces to fight the al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has taken control of large swaths of the north over the last few weeks.

Kerry, who arrived Monday, plans to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and top Sunni and Kurdish leaders to see whether a brokered political solution could create an opportunity for the Iraqi army to beat back the extremists and give al-Maliki the chance to keep the country together. After U.S. troops left in 2011, al Maliki, a Shiite, quickly moved to consolidate his power by excluding Sunni leaders from the government and the military.

Kerry also must grapple with the question of Iran's influence in the country, and whether it will prevent the leaders from negotiating a political solution. Iran's top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday he is opposed to U.S. intervention, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"We strongly oppose the intervention of the U.S. and others in the domestic affairs of Iraq," Khamenei was quoted as saying, in his first reaction to the crisis.

"The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the US camp and those who seek an independent Iraq," said Khamenei, who has the final say over government policies. "The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power since the U.S. is not happy about the current government in Iraq. "

Last week a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard were operating in Iraq but did not estimate how many were there.

On the domestic front, Obama on Monday will participate in a summit on working families that will focus on employment policies and ways to help families balance their commitments. First Lady Michelle Obama will also attend, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.

On Tuesday, Obama will host golfing's 2013 President's Cub teams at the White House.

And Wednesday he will lunch with Israeli President Shimon Peres before welcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

In the evening, the president will address the League of Conservation Voters Capital Dinner.

On Thursday, Obama plans to travel to Minneapolis, Minn. for a yet-to-be announced schedule, and on Friday he and Michelle will attend the Marine Barracks Evening Parade in Washington.

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Author:

Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner