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U.S. sending more troops to Iraq
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- With their country ravaged by militants, Iraqi lawmakers will meet Tuesday for the first time since elections to try to find a way out of the crisis.
The most pressing order of business: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's anticipated call to form a new government.
Even the often-fractious parliament is expected to move fast as militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria threaten Baghdad.
Al-Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government have been under pressure by Western and Arab diplomats to be more inclusive of Iraq's Sunni minority, who say they have been marginalized and cut out of the political process by the government.
American and Arab diplomats told CNN that the United States is unlikely to undertake any military strikes against ISIS and its allied fighters before a new government is formed in Iraq.
But the United States is increasing its military presence in Iraq, ordering 300 more troops to the besieged country, the Pentagon announced Monday.
ISIS militants have "continued to pose a legitimate threat to Baghdad and its environs," a U.S. official told CNN. "We have seen them reinforce themselves around Baghdad enough to convince us more troops was the prudent thing to do."
The new troops, 200 of whom arrived Sunday and Monday, will provide security for the U.S. Embassy, the Baghdad airport and other facilities in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The deployment includes "a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which will bolster airfield and travel route security," Kirby said in a written statement.
The airport is in western Baghdad about 12 miles (20 kilometers) by helicopter from the embassy in the capital's fortified Green Zone.
The 300 troops are in addition to 300 U.S. advisers who will help train Iraq's security forces. They will bring the total of American forces in Iraq to about 800 troops.
The magnitude of the Iraq crisis can be illustrated in the sharp rise in deaths over the past two months.
At least 2,417 Iraqis died due to violence in June, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.
That number includes the deaths of 1,531 civilians (including 270 civilian police) and 886 members of the Iraqi security forces, UNAMI said.
The June death toll is almost twice as high as the May figure -- 994 -- given by the United Nations. The U.N. said 144 of those killed in May were civilian police officers.
While ISIS has seized swaths of Iraq in recent weeks, Iraqi forces have made strides in battling the militants, the government said.
The military cleared the University of Tikrit of militant fighters and conducted a major offensive in Salaheddin province, state-run media said Tuesday.
Iraqi state TV also said a pro-government tribal council has been established in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, an area that has been hotly contested.
CNN cannot independently confirm the government claims.
Emboldened by a weakened Iraqi government that is struggling to stop their murderous advance, extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared over the weekend that they have set up a caliphate -- or Islamic state -- spanning large areas of the two countries.
In a newly released audio message and written statement purportedly from the ISIS spokesman, the group called on Muslims to swear allegiance to the caliphate. Both Shia and Sunni Muslims have been deeply offended by the claim.
The message claims that the group's territory now spans from Aleppo province in northwestern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq. It announced that ISIS was changing its name to just the "Islamic State."
But allegations of atrocities are not just limited to ISIS. Amnesty International has said it has gathered evidence pointing to a pattern of "extrajudicial executions" of Sunni detainees by government forces and Shiite militias in Tal Afar, Mosul and Baquba.
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