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  • Sources familiar w/inaugural planning tell @cbsnews Bush 41 & Bush 43 will not attend Monday's festivities. Clinton, Carter will be there.

    — Caroline Horn (@CNHorn) January 18, 2013

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  • Statement by the Press Secretary
    (as released by the White House)

    "The President has made clear that Congress has only two options: pay the bills they have racked up, or fail to do so and put our nation into default.

    We are encouraged that there are signs that Congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle class families depend on.

    Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay. And as he has said, the President remains committed to further reducing the deficit in a balanced way."
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  • The political week that was

    Fiscal showdown(s): From surprise presser to temporary deal. President Obama held a news conference on short notice Monday morning (full video here), standing firm on his refusal to trade spending cuts for raising the debt ceiling, as proposed by Speaker of the House Boehner and congressional Republicans. Obama insisted that he would not negotiate on this front given the risk of economic chaos from a failure to act - though he added levity by acknowledging that he might welcome more friendly socializing in the White House. On Friday, Republican leaders said they would seek to raise the debt ceiling for three months without accompanying cuts, providing a way to seek other concessions and refine a fiscal strategy in the interim. Squint and look further ahead with this National Journal piece on looming fiscal strife.

    Gun control: Ideas, proposals and action, with many battles ahead. The gun violence task force led by Vice President Biden that was set up after the Newtown school shooting presented its proposals to President Obama after last week's high-profile meetings with interest groups. New York state passed a landmark gun control bill on Tuesday (Massachusetts may follow soon) that was denounced by the NRA, which released a controversial ad centered on the Secret Service protection for Obama's children that was in turn denounced by the White House. Against this backdrop, Obama and Biden announced (video)the details Wednesday of the biggest gun-control push in decades, including background checks, an assault weapons ban, and 23 executive actions to be taken without congressional approval. The NRA attacked the announcement as misguided, and the legislative path of the plan is sure to be rocky.

    The second term: Setting the stage. The mandated January 20th inauguration day falls on Sunday this year, so Obama will be officially sworn in during a closed ceremony with a well-practiced Chief Justice John Roberts. A public swearing-in will follow on Monday the 21st. Though this inauguration will be subdued compared to four years ago, it will still attract hundreds of thousands and feature a challenging inaugural address that, along with the February 12th State of the Union, will attempt to situate Obama's second term. The new Cabinet is also taking shape, with the announcement of Interior Secretary Salazar's departure and the January 24th and 31st confirmation hearings, respectively, for Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and John Kerry as secretary of state (with questions following Hillary Clinton out the door).

    Also: Former President George H. W. Bush was released from his lengthy hospital stay. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to testify on January 23rd before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Benghazi attack. The House approved the main $50.4 billion portion of the Sandy disaster relief package. And Obama's half-brother in Kenya has been inspired to seek elected office himself, as has Stephen Colbert's sister.

    Save for the weekend: Frontline's "Inside Obama's Presidency" series
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  • Obama starts second term in White House ceremony

    President Barack Obama took the official oath for his second term on Sunday at the White House in a small, private ceremony that set a more subdued tone compared to the historic start of his presidency four years ago.

    Gathered with his family in the Blue Room on the White House's ceremonial main floor, Obama put his hand on a family Bible and recited the 35-word oath that was read out loud by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

    "I did it," Obama said as he hugged his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia. "Thank you, sweetie," he told Michelle when she congratulated him. "Good job, Dad. You didn't mess up," 11-year-old Sasha Obama told her father.

    It was a low-key start to the first African-American U.S. president's second term, which is likely to be dominated - at least at the start - by budget fights with Republicans and attempts to reform gun control and immigration laws.

    Read on…
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  • U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk from the White House to the Inaugural Parade reviewing stand in Washington January 21, 2013, after returning from The Capitol for Obama's ceremonial swearing-in for his second term. REUTERS/Chris Kleponis

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  • Confident Obama lays out battle plan as he launches second term

    A confident President Barack Obama kicked off his second term on Monday with an impassioned call for a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change.

    Obama's ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America's first black president.

    Despite expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and a divided Washington, Obama delivered a preview of the priorities he intends to pursue - essentially, a reaffirmation of core liberal Democratic causes - declaring Americans "are made for this moment" and must "seize it together."

    His hair visibly gray after four years in office, Obama called for an end to the political partisanship that marked much of his first term in the White House in bitter fights over the economy with Republicans.

    Read on…
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  • Audio: U.S. President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address
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  • Prepared text of Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi.


    Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity.

    The terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 that claimed the lives of four brave Americans — Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty — are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa. Today, I want to offer some context for this challenge and share what we’ve learned, how we are protecting our people, and where we can work together to honor our fallen colleagues and continue to champion America’s interests and values.

    Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Benghazi joins a long list of tragedies, for our Department and for other agencies: hostages taken in Tehran in 1979, our embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009, and too many others. Of course, the list of attacks foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals get it right 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world. That’s why, like my predecessors, I trust them with my life.

    Let’s also remember that administrations of both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts to learn from the tragedies that have occurred, to implement recommendations from the Review Boards, to seek necessary resources, and to better protect our people from constantly evolving threats. That’s what the men and women who serve our country deserve. And it’s what we are doing again now, with your help. As Secretary, I have had no higher priority, and no greater responsibility.

    As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.Taking responsibility meant moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis and further protect our people and posts in highthreat areas across the region and the world. It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement. And it meant intensifying our efforts to combat terrorism and support emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond.

    Let me share some of the lessons we have learned, the steps we have taken, and the work we continue to do.

    First, let’s start on the night of September 11 itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department and stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan government. So I saw firsthand what Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen called “timely” and “exceptional” coordination. No delays in decision-making. No denials of support from Washington or from the military. And I want to echo the Review Board’s praise for the valor and courage of our people on the ground – especially the security professionals in Benghazi and Tripoli. The Board said our response saved American lives in real time – and it did.

    The very next morning, I told the American people that “heavily armed militants assaulted our compound” and vowed to bring them to justice. And I stood with President Obama as he spoke of “an act of terror.”

    You may recall that in that same period, we also saw violent attacks on our embassies in Cairo, Sanaa, Tunis, and Khartoum, as well as large protests outside many other posts where thousands of our diplomats serve.

    So I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world, with particular scrutiny for high-threat posts. We asked the Department of Defense to join Interagency Security Assessment Teams and to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Security Guards. I named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts, so Missions in dangerous places get the attention they need. And we reached out to Congress to help address physical vulnerabilities, including risks from fire, and to hire additional Diplomatic Security personnel. Second, even as we took these steps, I also appointed the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen so that we could more fully understand what went wrong and how to fix it.

    I have accepted every one of their recommendations — and I asked the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources to lead a task force to ensure that all 29 of them are implemented quickly and completely… as well as to pursue additional steps above and beyond those in the Board’s report. Because of the effort we began in the days after the attacks, work is already well underway. And, as I pledged in my letter to you last month, implementation has now begun on all 29 recommendations. Our task force started by translating the recommendations into 64 specific action items. All of these action items were assigned to specific bureaus and offices, with clear timelines for completion. Fully 85 percent are on track to be completed by the end of March, with a number completed already.

    We are taking a top-to-bottom look, and rethinking how we make decisions on where, when, and how our people operate in high threat areas, and how we respond to threats and crises.

    As part of our effort to go above and beyond the Review Board’s recommendations, we are initiating an annual High Threat Post Review chaired by the Secretary of State, and ongoing reviews by the Deputy Secretaries, to ensure pivotal questions about security reach the highest levels. And we will regularize protocols for sharing information with Congress.

    All of these actions are designed to increase the safety of our diplomats and development experts and reduce the chances of another Benghazi happening again.

    Now, in addition to the immediate action we took and the Review Board process, we have been moving forward on a third front: addressing the broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region. Because Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. And instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria. And let me offer my deepest condolences to the families of the Americans and all the people from many nations who were killed and injured in the recent hostage crisis. We remain in close touch with the Government of Algeria and stand ready to provide assistance if needed. We are seeking to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent terrorist attacks like this in
    the future.

    Concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are not new. Indeed they have been a top priority for our entire national security team. But after Benghazi, we accelerated a diplomatic campaign to increase pressure on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups across the region.

    In the first hours and days, I conferred with the President of Libya and the Foreign Ministers of Tunisia and Morocco. Two weeks later, I met with regional leaders at the United Nations General Assembly and held a special meeting focused on Mali and the Sahel. In October, I flew to Algeria to discuss the fight against AQIM. In November, I sent Deputy Secretary Bill Burns to follow up in Algiers. And then in December, he co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi and a meeting in Tunis of leaders working to build new democracies and reform security services.

    In all these diplomatic engagements, and in near-constant contacts at every level, we have focused on targeting al Qaeda’s syndicate of terror – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering extremist ideology, and slowing the flow of new recruits. We continue to hunt the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi and are determined to bring them to justice. And we’re also using all our diplomatic and economic tools to support the emerging democracies of the region, including Libya, to strengthen security forces and provide a path away from extremism.

    The United States must continue to lead… in the Middle East and all around the globe. We have come a long way in the past four years. We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened. That’s why Chris Stevens went to Benghazi in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution and then during the transition.

    A weak Libyan government, marauding militias, even terrorist groups… a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he didn’t waver. Because he understood that it was critical for America to be represented in that pivotal place at that pivotal time.

    Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect this country we love. They represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. And they cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. It is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs and to do everything we can to reduce the risks they face.

    For me, this is not just a matter of policy… it’s personal.

    I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.

    It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington and at more than 275 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day – often in difficult and dangerous circumstances thousands of miles from home –because they believe the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the earth has ever known.

    And when we suffer tragedies overseas, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases. That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of patriots I’m talking about. They ask what they can do for their country. And America is stronger for it.

    Today, after four years in this job, after traveling nearly 1 million miles and visiting 112 countries around the world, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensible nation. And I am confident that, with your help, we will continue to keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional.

    So I want to thank this committee for your partnership and your support of our diplomats and development experts around the world. You know the importance of the work they do day-in and day-out, and that America’s values and vital national security interests are at stake. It is absolutely critical that we work together to ensure they have the resources and support they need to face increasingly complex threats.

    I know that you share our sense of responsibility and urgency. And while we all may not agree on everything, let’s stay focused on what really matters: protecting our people and the country we all love.

    Now I am now happy to answer your questions.
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  • Btw, Kerry has recused himself from the Clinton hearing because he is working daily with State Dept as Obama's nominee to replace her.

    — Patricia Zengerle (@ReutersZengerle) January 23, 2013

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  • "It was a terrorist attack, I called it a terror attack by heavily armed militants" - Hillary Clinton
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  • Clinton points to threats in Cairo, Yemen, and Tunis: "I was pretty occupied about keeping our people safe, doing what needed to be done in the followup to Benghazi."
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  • "I wasn't involved in the talking points process" - Hillary Clinton
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  • Clinton: "It is a red line for this administration with respect to Syria concerning the use of chemical weapons."

    — Patricia Zengerle (@ReutersZengerle) January 23, 2013

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  • Clinton suggests Egyptian reluctance to protect US embassy in riots. Says US officials had to call, tell them to get their ppl on the street

    — Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) January 23, 2013

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  • #Clinton #Benghazi These questions being asked of Clinton are not nearly as tough as I had expected. Maybe that will change...
  • Clinton's response to a question on the spillover of weapons from Libya highlights the arms flow to conflicts in Algeria, Syria, and Mali. Clinton noted that Libya was "awash in weapons before the revolution," saying that the vast majority came from former Libyan strongman Gaddafi's warehouses. However, the US also played a role in arming Libyan rebels with shipments from Qatar. Clinton admitted that many weapons have since found their way on to the black market and been "seized by militias." The WSJ reported that weapons from Libya were used in the attack on a gas facility in Algeria last week, which Clinton later confirmed in her testimony. Human Rights Watch also has pointed to the risk of weapons from Libya spilling into Mali, where French forces are fighting Islamic militants.
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  • Clinton says militants used weapons from Libya in Algeria attack

    WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday Algerian militants involved in an attack on a desert gas plant in Algeria this month had weapons from Libya.

    "There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya. There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM have weapons from Libya," she said at a Senate hearing on the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. AQIM - Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - is an affiliate of al Qaeda.

    (Reporting By Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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  • Clinton responds to Senator Shaheen: "We have to look more closely at what State and DoD can do together."
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  • Read the unclassified Accountability Review Board Report here: http://go.usa.gov/4WyY
  • Background on the QDDR is available at http://go.usa.gov/4WmA
  • A Fact Sheet on U.S.-#Libya relations is available at http://go.usa.gov/4WEd.
  • For more information about the Diplomatic Security Service visit http://go.usa.gov/4WEW.
  • Clinton: "I think we all wish that nobody had ever raised doubts, but certainly Ambassador Rice and all the other administration officials were speaking off of what had been determined were the most acceptable talking points."
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  • Clinton: "No one in the State Department, the intelligence community, any other agency ever recommended that we close Benghazi."
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  • Clinton chokes up as she defends handling of Benghazi attack

    WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton choked up on Wednesday as she defended her handling of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi, an event that threatens to stain her legacy and any presidential hopes she may still harbor.

    By turns emotional and feisty, Clinton told U.S. lawmakers that she took responsibility for the incident in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, but also defended herself.

    Read on.
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  • "It's wonderful to see you in good health and as combative as ever." - Senator John McCain
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  • Clinton: "Four years ago, al Shabab was one of the biggest threats to East Africa ... It took American money, American know-how, and American experience, and we have to make the decision we're going to do the same in North Africa as well."
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  • Video: Secy. Clinton and Sen. Johnson clash over Benghazi
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  • U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pounds on her table while testifying on the September attack on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

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  • Secy. Clinton, Sen. Johnson clash over Benghazi attack - via @TheMatthewKeys

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  • Sen. John McCain disagrees with Secy. Clinton's characterization of what the U.S. did in Libya: "We did not help them with border security, we did not give them the kind of assistance that would be necessary to help dismantle the militia."
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  • "I understand your very strong feelings," Clinton tells McCain who scorched her on Benghazi at Senate hearing "We just have a disagreement."
  • "A word on behalf of Ambassador Rice: I think some of the criticism that was heaped on her was unfair and did not reflect the fact that she was reporting the best information she had available at the time." - Senator Durbin
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  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defends her handling of the attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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  • Senator John McCain challenges Hillary Clinton on her response to Benghazi attack

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  • Sen. Rand Paul lays in to Secretary Clinton, calling the Benghazi attack the "worst tragedy since 9/11" and calling Clinton's handling of the attack a "failure of leadership."
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  • Sen. Rand Paul questions Secy. Clinton on "news reports" that link the September 11 attack in Benghazi to a ship carrying weapons from Libya to Turkey. The news report was published by FOX News in October.

    Clinton says she's unaware of the report and took the question for the record.
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  • "We employ privately employed security guards in a very high number of our posts around the world."
    Secy. Clinton testifies that the U.S. employs nongovernmental, local security in many high threat places around the world. The Blue Mountain Group, a small British firm, was hired to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Read the full Reuters report here.
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  • Sec. Hillary Clinton's testimony to Senate Foreign Relations is over. She will return at 2pm to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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  • Reuters: Senate majority leader Harry Reid says Senate will take up Republican debt limit bill if House passes it
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  • The House Armed Services Committee is currently holding a public hearing on sexual assault in the military in the wake of a scandal involving recruits at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

    Here is the Reuters walk-up to the hearing from last night. Click "In Progress - View Event" at this link for the video stream.
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  • Senate Democrats praise House Republican debt limit bill

    The Senate will take up a nearly four-month extension of U.S. borrowing authority if the Republican proposal is passed by the House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said on Wednesday.

    Senate Democratic leaders, unlike their House counterparts, praised the legislation, saying that it would cut the link Republicans had previously insisted upon between future debt limit increases and new spending cuts.

    The House is poised to vote on the legislation on Wednesday.

    Read on…
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  • Reuters: U.S. House of Representatives passes extension of U.S. debt limit to May 19; measure now moves to U.S. Senate
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  • Kerry will be introduced by current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his confirmation hearing. From the Reuters walk-up story:

    At least one of President Barack Obama's national security picks is likely to win approval easily from the U.S. Senate: his nominee for Secretary of State, John Kerry, whose confirmation hearing will be conducted by a committee he has led for four years.
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Iran-backed Shi'ite militias to join assault near Mosul on new front

BAGHDAD Iraqi Shi'ite militias backed by Iran said on Friday they would soon join the fight against Islamic State on a new front west of Mosul, a move which could block any retreat by the jihadists into Syria but might alarm Turkey and the United States.