John Kerry Stops in Baghdad Ahead of Obama Speech

Kerry went from Amman to Baghdad Wednesday. Kerry went from Amman to Baghdad Wednesday. State Department

Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced stop in Baghdad on Wednesday to meet with Iraq's new prime minister ahead of President Obama's address to the nation on his strategy to defeat the Islamic State.

Kerry made the visit to congratulate the recently appointed leader, Haider al-Abadi, on his successful formation of a new, more inclusive government. The secretary of statehailed that development on Monday as a "major milestone" in Iraq's effort to repel the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

During a photo-op after the meeting with al-Abadi, the two men exchanged pleasantries and Kerry said Obama would offer "a more detailed description" of how the United States, along with allied nations, planned to confront ISIS both in Iraq and Syria. Kerry referred to ISIS as a "terrorist structure which is unacceptable any place anywhere in the world."

After his second visit to Iraq in the last three months, Kerry also plans to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia to continue building the U.S.-led coalition that will go after ISIS.

Obama's speech from the White House will begin shortly after 9 p.m. He told congressional leaders in a meeting Tuesday that he did not need formal authorization for the military strategy he intends to pursue, which will likely include more than the current round of airstrikes he has ordered against the Islamic State in Iraq.

A White House official offered a short preview of the address to reporters on Wednesday morning:

Tonight you will hear from the president how the United States will pursue a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, including U.S. military action and support for the forces combating ISIL on the ground – both the opposition in Syria and a new, inclusive Iraqi government. The President will discuss how we are building a coalition of allies and partners in the region and in the broader international community to support our efforts, and will talk about how we work with the Congress as a partner in these efforts.”

UPDATE: In a subsequent press conference in Baghdad, Kerry said Obama would present a "broad-based, comprehensive strategy" on Wednesday. "It will not just resort to bombs," he said, or direct military action.

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