US Secretary of State John Kerry Arrives in Baghdad, Iraq

Kerry meets with Iraqi prime minister amid ISIS crisis.
23:08 | 06/23/14

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Transcript for US Secretary of State John Kerry Arrives in Baghdad, Iraq
High stakes high level diplomacy in Iraq secretary of state John -- makes an unannounced visit to Baghdad. Is it too little too late or is a diplomatic solution possible to stop the civil war threatening. To tear Iraq apart. Went down Cutler in New York America's top diplomat makes at an -- but not entirely surprising visit to Baghdad with the senior -- -- task. A -- agreement between the Sunnis the Shiites the Kurds and stopping the march. Of the Islamist militants. Known as crisis joining us now with more details John -- trip to a rock NBC's Karen Travers in Washington Karen. Good afternoon Dan this is a very critical trip for secretary carry -- we heard him speak about an hour ago at a press conference where he said that -- is fighters are trying to destroy Iraq. And Iraq's future depends in the ability of its political leaders to come together. Secretary of state John carries on -- most challenging mission. This is clearly a moment when the stakes for Iraq's future could not be clearer. On an unannounced visit to Baghdad -- using rapid fire diplomacy as he meets with Iraqi leaders the security situation there growing worse. Kerry started his visit with a nearly two hour meeting with prime minister Maliki facing -- and US officials for not doing enough. The and the sectarian differences. After the meeting ended Kerry was heard saying that was bullet. The secretary then met with the head of the Islamic supreme council of Iraq he's -- who has good relations with Sunnis and Kurds. Could be instrumental in determining Iraq's next government. Next -- -- a sit down with the speaker of Iraq's parliament the principal concern is for the Iraqi People. In -- The country's borders are suffering and finally the meeting with Iraq's foreign minister called -- -- -- very very important. We need to -- color and work. Two rookies. About this is -- welcome. -- And couldn't come at a more critical time. -- Sunni militants from prices have claimed for new towns in just the last few days part of the Iraq border with Jordan is under threat. And with the city of -- and now and -- sites each stream has could gain control of key water supplies and damaged the country's electricity grid. Then secretary Kerry said that ice -- threatens the stability of the Middle East and the US and that any threat that is left unattended they can pose grave consequences. Dan. She's -- Travis forests in Washington Karen thank you. ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl joins us now the White House south -- -- let me ask is what is the very first thing the White House would like to see in Iraq. If there is any chance of solving this crisis. Well look weathered what they want to see is some kind of resolution. Political resolution where the government Iraq actually has legitimacy. In northern -- in the Sunni held areas where this insurgency is taking over the big problem right now. Is that this group ice this you know most called worse than al-Qaeda more extreme -- al-Qaeda by John Kerry today. Actually has a degree of support in the north because the the government of Iraq under prime minister Melky simply has. Virtually no legitimacy with the Sunni population that is a fundamental problem. And it means in the White House view. That there really is no military solution here there's got to also be a political solution so what kind of faith what kind of support accomplices US have in prime minister -- -- A virtually non. The -- John Kerry said again you've heard from the president that they're not here to choose the prime minister of Iraq they're not. Calling on -- you to go but you talk. You know on back he talked to senior officials. Behind the scenes they will privately tell you. That there's virtually no hope for Iraq with -- -- in power he's been in power for eight years. He is governed in a way that has been. A wholly sectarian. Looking after the interest of the -- majority. Alienating the Kurds alienating the Sunnis. They really see no hope for Iraq if he continues as prime minister now they've just that primary -- -- parliamentary elections earlier this year. That are now in the process of forming a government so there is a you know an opportunity here for -- new leadership to be chosen it would still be -- he's party but the hope here virtually across the board. By US officials is that Iraq will on its own choose a different leader so what. Regarding the -- militants and they've been advancing almost at will across Iraq -- several weeks now President Obama though has. Taken no military action to stop them to that there are options on the table there but why would he be so reluctant to to -- -- targeted strike as he put it. Other two major reasons why he is reluctant the first. Is the one we just discuss the the idea -- -- did just taking out crisis is not enough you need to also deal with the fundamental sectarian divide that is tearing that country apart. But the other problem -- may be the more significant problem in the short term is the difficulty finding targets this is a effectively -- terrorist group that has taken over. They aren't out there and military formations working on a military headquarters. With with you know military leadership you know where they are who you can take out. Finding the targets this is this is a group that is operating with in the civilian population. And you have no US personnel on the ground. Who can go there and help pinpoint the targets so virtually any time you take air strikes against a group like this your -- heavy risk. Not hitting we want to hit and instead hitting civilian targets in making your problem effectively worse by again building up the support for the extremists or what about. International response to this outside of the United States and -- as the USC a going to completely alone as any other country understanding and along with these kinds of efforts to stop it. Weld -- -- there's an effort to to work with the region I mean the United States even as we've discussed. Working with the raw onions on this because the Iranians have great influence -- -- he's government. With the Shia population. The United States is also -- John Kerry is making a number of stops in the region right now he's in he's in Iraq right now. But but he also knows you need to deal -- -- major Sunni governments in the region to make sure that they are putting pressure. You know for to -- in exactly the same direction away from. Ice system towards a unified government in Iraq -- it's a very tricky. Problem because it is internationalized. And of course. Vices. Has its you know what you know much of its power is driving out of out of Syria they have taken over -- -- Tell us sections of territory in Syria which is why you have some people saying if it comes to air strikes. Some of those airstrikes are gonna have to go across the the Syrian border because. That is where upping the -- has as its -- so what is next now for secretary of state John Kerry following those announced trips. Well the next thing you know he's he's he's wrapping up his triple -- out of totaled eight hours in in Baghdad. And the next thing is to. Is to continue to put pressure. On the on the Iraqi Government to -- an inclusive government. Look -- even if they do that even he suddenly miraculously. Was able to pull. The rabbit out of a hat you were to have a a situation where -- got a new Iraqi Government there was exclusive that included all the different sectarian groups. You know had Syria dad -- real Sunni representation of the Kurds were happy with. That's not been resolved everything immediately or even much of anything immediately because and you still have the problem. You have a terrorist group that is in control of entire sections of northern Iraq and has access. Two so much money and so much firepower right now. It's did the intelligence analysts say this may in fact be the most well equipped well funded terrorist group that we've ever seen. Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl outside the White House forced state Jonathan thanks so much appreciate it thank you. I wanna go inside the White House now where white house Press Secretary Josh -- at the -- address for policy issues with reporters there let's listen Google's. Verify the destruction of all declared chemical weapons delivery vehicles including missile warheads and aerial bombs. In the coming weeks the United States will begin destruction of a large amounts of serious chemical weapons precursors. Aboard -- -- That's -- we done in the safest most environmentally sound manner. It's an unprecedented -- deploying unique American capabilities to destroy the most dangerous elements of the Syrian arsenal. This will ensure that they will never be used against the Syrian people or against the United States are allies are partners in the region. Or beyond. We continue to strongly oppose -- -- regimes appalling violations of human rights and will continue to work with our friends and partners including the moderate opposition in Syria. To support efforts to assist the Syrian people and bring about a transition to a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Finally. Wanted to read. One additional statement about. -- situation in Egypt. The United States strongly condemns the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and fifteen other defendants today in Egypt. The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide. With the government in Egypt's narrative. -- most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt. As we've said many times before democracy is about more than elections. True democracy requires the rating democratic institutions including a vibrant. Free press has empowered to hold the government accountable to the people. Perhaps most disturbing in this verdict comes. As part of this succession of prosecutions in verdicts that are fundamentally incompatible with the -- basic precepts of human rights. And democratic governance. These include the prosecution a peaceful protesters and critics of the government in a series of summary death sentences in trials that -- which sheeting and even a semblance. Of due process. It should be emphasized that the victims in these cases are not just the defendants in journalism -- probably but the Egyptian people. Who have courageously asserted their demands for the fundamental freedoms to which all are entitled. We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences -- they can be released immediately. In grant clemency for all politically motivated sentences. Sentences starting with the other defendants in this trial. We strongly urge president Al CC in the spirit of his lecturing you all human rights legislation. To provide the protections for free expression and assembly. As well as the fair trial safeguards that are required by Egypt's international obligations. The United States will continue to struggle to stand with the Egyptian people as they -- to realize the rights for which -- have long struggled. So I apologize for the -- long windup but it's important is -- would start off so potentially. Units are questions. Extra cash as you and -- a couple of dozen division I know that the administration sees this as a policy victory but I'm wondering if that's. Ten -- at all given the fact that he then he got all of the new chemical weapons out of Syria that all of -- Actually nothing to stop the civil war there and that -- is bleeding over into. Iraq. I guess the -- your question is yes that we remain very concerned about the situation. In Syria what's notable that this. Announcement today. Is. That for a long time. Do you -- regime in Syria was one of the more conspicuous. Violators. Though widely accepted notion across the globe. -- chemical weapons have no place. And -- have no place. Particularly when they're being used against civilians as they were. Last August. The fact that Syria has now. It declared. That they have chemical weapons signed the treaty and has cooperated with the international community to dispose of those declared chemical weapons is an important step and there wasn't justified skepticism by people in this room and by other close observers of this situation about whether or not Syria would actually follow through. And they did. Thinks primarily again to be -- the international community to hold into account to follow through on this mission. And -- United States is able to bring some unique capabilities. To bear to dispose of these these chemicals. But that minutes -- -- center. There and deep regret that went and left the attack happened last year that. Option that the president -- it was this plant you're becoming what is that not be more -- Perhaps. Slowed violence there. Vented myself from spilling over into the well that would it. I think but I would say that Julius -- that that the president has been carefully reviewing his options. And I think we've been pretty honest about the fact that. That there has been a regular process underway here inside the administration. To continually review our options. Four confronting Syria. And for dealing with the terrible humanitarian. And diplomatic situation. There. The fact the matter is that there are not a lot of good options. And this has been a difficult policy problem to confront. But yet there are a number of things that we've done certainly getting. I handle and disposing of these declared chemical weapons stockpiles an important step. The United States continues to be the largest she donor of humanitarian assistance to the region. We've also spent quite a bit of time courting with our allies in the region. Two assist in the response to the violence in Syria we've been worried for some time about the destabilizing impact. -- that the violence that country could have throughout the region. There's no question that some of -- the violence that we've seen in Iraq in the last couple of weeks. And the amount of territory that IS IL has taken over. Is an outgrowth of that instability. This is something that we've been focused on for quite some time if there's a difference between being focused on it. And it actually having a solution to what is a I think everybody acknowledges even our harshest critics acknowledge that this is a thorny. Problem to deal and that the that the answers here are -- -- -- easy or obvious. But there is a key strategy in place the press has deployed that is bearing some results. And -- the elimination of these declared. Chemical stockpiles. It's an important step. Primarily because I just -- finish at this one thought our biggest. Among our biggest concerns with this. Stockpile that was maintained by the Asad regime was -- possibility even likelihood of proliferation. These weapons could fall in the hands of terrorist groups. Or other rogue nations. And that we could see -- used. Against our partners our allies or even -- forbid the American people. Because he's declared weapons stockpiles. Have now been. Secured by the international community and and disposed of by. The United States these weapons will never be used by anybody. And no one will be a victim of these weapons and that is as important step and one we're pleased to see. The daily briefing. The White House there with white house Press Secretary Josh shares will continue we'll continue to watch it right here but for right now though I -- -- bring him from Baghdad ABC's -- McDonald. With the latest. On the situation in Iraq and -- Michelle what a start there's a lot of talk today and we just heard from Josh Earnest their about the integrity of Iraq's borders. So many fighters so much money so many weapons coming across from Syria. Is is a secure border -- possible at this point. Well I guess the reality is -- -- that in that press conference we also -- early today. During a press conference that John Kerry guy -- and Baghdad. That it's impossible really for the United States not to view this as two separate conflicts one in Iraq one in Syria. The -- is being continually eroded between Iraq and Syria ICC's claiming territory in both Iraq and Syria. The difficulty from a policy point of view is that the United States effectively has different positions. On this conflict in Iraq and in Syria in Syria they've been working against the regime of Bashar Al Assad has some years now. Here in Iraq. They're working it seems to try and supports. The central government whether that's led by Muriel -- -- someone else we don't yet know. But ultimately it's a very complicated picture for the United States. Given the foreign policy position. That it's taking kindly and given the fact. The -- is he's continuing to gang territory. It is collecting weaponry as it goes it steals more territory. And certainly from here in Baghdad the picture looks very -- Because to the north. There's -- -- in territory in the hands and watch -- and increasingly. To the west as well given that complexity. This trip by secretary Kerry being called the secret visit -- truly though wasn't a surprise though to see such a high level American diplomat on the ground. In the capital. -- I think given the severity of the situation that is not surprising in old. The United States has a huge interest in making -- that these -- crisis continues to move. In something that resembles a positive direction if that can be found -- old. You've got to remember that the United States -- the invasion on Iraq back in 2003. Since then. They've just -- difficult years it has it didn't flurries at times the conflict has being severe times things have looked. More positive. There has been a number of democratic elections here so at least that's one positive thing. But all ultimately in 2011. Iraq and the United States failed to sign a status -- status of forces agreement. Giving. Troops US troops the legal immunity that. The government wants -- to stay stationed here on the ground in Iraq. And his results of that we now find ourselves in a situation where Iraq is actually. Begging effectively the United States to provide support from the and we airstrikes. -- -- the United States doesn't want to get green guys militarily in the same way that it was before because as we all mired that was disastrous. And clearly John Kerry believes that a diplomatic -- that result. Is possible. And that may involve pushing along the democratic process there's a caretaker government in place here at the -- it. Since the elections there is now July 1 deadline effectively for the formation. -- government and John Kerry says he has the agreement of all the leaders he met here today. To work towards that July 1 deadline. And -- what about the money trail of these -- fighters they're plowing through the country they're picking up cash along the way. Is -- looted from Iraqi cities -- the US suspect in fact that it could be coming from abroad. Well the United States is actually denied. That there is any formal funding flowing -- -- -- From Saudi Arabia which is the allegation that has been made. Repeatedly. -- does seem to be a lot of evidence to support. That funds have come from that direction whether it's. From an added an official level -- that from. A lower level than that -- it's not -- via. The reality is though the -- does have a a lot of money. It has more money now that it has secured territory in Iraq. Mosul is the second biggest city in Iraq the banks were -- that -- -- -- to control of that city and we told secured hundreds of millions of dollars. In cash. As well as that day collecting taxes in the areas that an Iraq that they now effectively have control. So is no shortage of cash. If you look at the annual report that's now being put out by us is fit to use in -- -- -- the thing that jumps out you -- it looks a bit like a financial report that a public company might. Put out two investigates. And in many ways that's exactly what -- -- is doing its showing -- The funding is is doing the results that it's bringing the number of attacks that it's carrying out as a result of the money that it's getting. In the -- that it can encourage. More funds to coming. So on the other side -- beyond the Iraqi Army what are the Shiite fighters and the militias what are they doing to ward off these Sunni -- militants. Well of the Shiite militias. Ready in essence in some parts of the country we -- over the weekend lots -- rallies. Many tens of thousands. Men taking to the streets named as if for example the -- the army which is loyal to initiate cleric Muqtada Al -- up. The difficulty is and particularly so -- the United States is that they do not want this to descend. Into a fight between issue is Shia and Sunni community in Iraq because don't forget that crisis has been idle tonight these advances. Because. So much of the Sunni community in his country feels disaffected neglected ignored. By the Shia dominated government. -- -- -- -- We might go back a few years to that same situation where we had effective civil war between the Shia and Sunni communities here in Iraq. So I think. While state is helpful in the immediate term for example for that for the government here in Baghdad. To have these Shia militias rallying over the weekend showing that was showing that it won't be easy I -- -- into the capital. The problem in the longer time is that you don't want to see Iraq to descend into a civil conflict or perhaps even was dividing to separate states that. An Islamic -- -- a stretching across the north and west this country into pots and Syria. -- -- in the north and then as she -- south perhaps controlled or at least very closely allied with Iran. That's sort of they the potential that we're looking at if this continues to descend and spiral out of control. Growing intensity in Iraq ABC's image McDonald in Baghdad's poorest -- -- thank you for that appreciated as always. And a reminder you can keep the fast moving situation in Iraq by. Downloading the ABC news that star in the -- for exclusive updates on the go. For non down that --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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