Obama Says Short-Term Military Actions Required in Iraq
US President Barack Obama declared on Thursday that short-term military actions will have to be taken in Iraq, following the take-over by an Al Qaeda break-off Islamist terrorist group over large portions of the country.
Reuters reported that Obama said he is looking at "all options" as far as helping the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, noting "I don't rule anything out," when asked whether the United States is considering drone strikes or any other action to stop the insurgency.
Speaking at the White House while meeting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, Obama said there will be "short-term immediate actions that need to be done militarily in Iraq," and that the US is prepared to take action to defend its security interests.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has begun turning southward towards Baghdad, after conquering the second-largest Iraqi city of Mosul and several other northern cities this week in a lightning offensive.
Iraq's US-trained military has received fierce criticism, after tens of thousands of troops simply fled without a fight in the face of a much smaller ISIS force, allowing them to conquer large sections of the country and American-supplied military equipment, including aircraft.
An ISIS spokesman threatened to capture Baghdad, adding that the Sunni Islamist group intends to push even further southwards into Shia Muslim strongholds such as the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, a move which will threaten not only Iraqi Shias but also neighboring Iran, where officials have warned the country's armed forces could intervene to protect Shia shrines.
Obama's inactivity up till now on Iraq has stoked the ire of US senators, with House Speaker John Boehner remarking on Thursday "what's the president doing? Taking a nap."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that Iraq is "collapsing," warning "the next 9/11 is in the making."
The concern over the White House's willingness to address the issue was expressed on Monday, when State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said "I don't get the sense that they're gaining a lot of territory," in reference to ISIS's standing in Iraq.
An Obama administration official told Reuters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity that Iraq has requested US air strikes, but that the US position as of that point was to strengthen Iraqi army forces rather than attack directly.