Iraq has given assurances to the United States that special operations forces that US President Barack Obama has ordered into the country will be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, US officials said.
Washington had to overcome that hurdle as it rushed to bolster the US presence in Iraq in the face of militant advances by Sunni Islamists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"The commander-in-chief would not make a decision to put our men and women in harm's way without getting some necessary assurances," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.The Pentagon said it hoped the US forces could help improve a still-murky US intelligence assessment of the situation in Iraq, including about the type and quantity of US-made weapons ISIL had seized from the Iraqi military.
So far, there was no evidence ISIL militants have secured sophisticated US-made arms, said Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
He added, however, that small arms and possibly US-made Humvee vehicles had been taken.
Obama said on Thursday he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq in non-combat roles and would consider targeted strikes against the insurgents.
The move to send troops back into Iraq revived an old question that was at the centre of his decision to withdraw thousands of American forces in 2011. At the time, the Obama administration attributed the decision to pull all troops out of Iraq to the difficulty of clinching a Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), which also would have kept troops from being tried in local courts.
The new agreement struck with Baghdad is far less sweeping and appeared far less formal than the Sofa.
But the US government said the assurances were enough, given the scope and size of the mission.