UK & World News
Iraq Asks For US Airstrikes To Combat ISIS
Iraq's government has asked the US to carry out airstrikes to help reverse the sweeping gains of Islamist militants in the country.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the request, as the US military said it had started flying manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over Iraq.
Barack Obama has briefed lawmakers on what options Washington could pursue.
When asked whether the US should honour the request for air strikes, Gen Dempsey answered: "It is in our national security interest to counter ISIL wherever we find them."
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said Baghdad had asked for airstrikes to "break the morale" of fighters from the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who have seized swathes of territory.
He added that Iraq's main ally, Iran, had not intervened so far, but "everything is possible".
US officials said on Tuesday that Mr Obama is not expected to approve immediate airstrikes, partly because there are few clear targets.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said his forces are "striking back" after a "shock" defeat at the hands of Sunni militants.
Mr Maliki's address came as insurgents were seen parading through the city of Baiji with captured vehicles after reports they had taken over three-quarters of the oil refinery.
Smoke was seen billowing from the Baiji complex, Iraq's biggest, as an official told Reuters it had been infiltrated by ISIS militants - potentially giving them control of the energy supply in northern Iraq.
Chief military spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim al Moussawi said government forces had repelled an attack and killed 40 fighters, although this has not been verified.
The attack on Baiji follows the revelation that ISIS charts its brutality and tactics in annual reports called al-Naba - The Report.
The 2013 version claims 10,000 operations in Iraq, including 1,000 assassinations and 4,000 improvised explosive devices planted.
As ISIS continued its move towards Baghdad, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned "the great Iranian people will do everything to protect" revered Shia shrines in Iraq from Sunni militants - the clearest indication yet that Tehran is prepared to mobilise.
Mr Rouhani's chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian, said Iran could work with the US on Iraq if talks about its nuclear programme are successful.
The announcement came as David Cameron warned that if Britain did not intervene, terrorists will "hit the UK at home".
Mr Maliki's pledge to strike back against ISIS appears set to begin with the "liberation" of the strategic northern Shia town of Tal Afar, which a security spokesman said would be completed by Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces in the northern towns of Saadiya and Jalula began a counter offensive against ISIS.
The Indian government has confirmed that 40 construction workers have been seized near Mosul.
Turkish diplomats are investigating reports 60 foreign construction workers, including some 15 Turks, have been taken near Kirkuk.
Some international oil companies have confirmed the evacuation of foreign workers.
The head of Iraq's southern oil company, Dhiya Jaffar, said Exxon Mobil had carried out a major evacuation, while BP had pulled out 20% of its staff.