NEW YORK (CNN) – In Baghdad nearly 500 us troops are now on the ground, including 180 military advisors of the 300 president Obama authorized plus security teams and intelligence analysts already there.
Priority One: Determine if Iraqi troops can hold the capital or if it’s in danger of falling to the ISIS militants.
The current assessment: The Shia-dominated Iraqi military will keep control. The Sunni backed-ISIS won’t risk an all-out urban war, but there is deep worry about the strength of Iraqi forces across the country.
“What we really need to see is the army get back on its feet, we have folks there trying to help these elite units do that, and start to retake territory, but the situation on the ground is still very serious,” Deputy State Department spokeswoman Mary Harf said.
Iraqi’s Haditha Dam, 170 miles northwest of Baghdad, may be the most critical target to protect.
ISIS and Iraqi units are battling for control of the largest hydroelectric plant in western Iraq. The local police chief told CNN government forces are so far holding onto control. But us intelligence is watching closely. If ISIS seizes the dam water and power for millions of Iraqis is in jeopardy.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki now says he’s happy to have Syrian airstrikes against ISIS, “There was no coordination involved, but we welcome this action.
The U.S. does not welcome what is says were Syrian air strikes that reached inside Iraq.
CNN has learned us aircraft flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq to collect intelligence are keeping an eye for both Syrian warplanes and Iranian drones and keeping an eye on threats against us advisors. This video message purportedly from a Sunni cleric calls for attacks against us embassies worldwide if the U.S. conducts airstrikes in Iraq.