World

Four Carriers Deployed To Iraq Loaded With Marines To Protect U.S. Interests

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde into the Persian Gulf as concern grows over a militant group's advancement toward Iraq's capital.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the Mesa Verde has already moved into the Gulf, joining the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. 

Kirby says the ships' presence will give President Barack Obama "additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq."

The Pentagon says the Mesa Verde carries Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that can be used for crisis response.

The State Department is reinforcing security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and evacuating some personnel. The militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has taken over several cities in northern Iraq.

The ships, which carried Tomahawk missiles that could reach Iraq, were expected to complete their move into the Persian Gulf by the end of the day. The Bush's fighter jets also could easily reach to Iraq.

Islamic militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have captured large swaths of territory north of Baghdad. Their advance on the capital was sending food prices dramatically higher and prompting tighter security in the city of 7 million people.

In a phone call Saturday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. assistance "would only be successful if Iraqi leaders were willing to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to forge the national unity necessary to move the country forward and confront the threat of ISIL," according to a statement by the State Department.

Kerry pointed to the importance of the Iraqi government ratifying election results without delay, adhering to its constitutionally mandated timeframe for forming a new government, and respecting the rights of all citizens as it fights against terrorism, the State Department said.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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