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Obama: U.S. Military Help Likely in Iraq

Obama: U.S. Military Help Likely in Iraq

By Alexis Simendinger - June 12, 2014

Two-and-a-half years after U.S. military forces departed Iraq, President Obama said American military intervention is likely to be deployed there to assist a weakened government overrun by insurgents sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

“Iraq’s going to need more help. It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community,” the president said in the Oval Office during a visit with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday.

“I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in Iraq, or Syria, for that matter,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options.”

The president was not more specific, but aides hastened to add he was not talking about putting troops on the ground. The Iraq government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, requested U.S. drone strikes, among other assistance, but was rebuffed in conversations this week, according to the New York Times.

The State Department is said to be drawing up contingency plans for evacuating the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to a spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson. The Florida lawmaker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, attended a classified briefing on Iraq and reported that the situation there is “rapidly deteriorating,” according to the Tampa Tribune. 

Obama said the militant incursion, which has surged toward Baghdad in the last 24 hours, “should also be a wake-up call for the Iraqi government that there has to be a political component to this, so that Sunni and Shiite care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside Iraq.”

The militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and is threatening to seize more territory, including the capital of Baghdad.

The president said political concessions between Sunni and Shiite “haven’t [been] seen so far.”

Obama said, as he did during his recent West Point commencement address in New York, that the United States seeks to partner with other nations to “extend our reach” to hot spots globally “without sending U.S. troops to play whack-a-mole wherever there ends up being a problem in a particular country.”

But he called the conflict in Iraq “clearly an emergency situation.” 

Earlier Thursday, Vice President Biden spoke by phone with al-Maliki, making clear that the U.S. is prepared to step up its support of Iraq in its struggle with the insurgent forces. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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