Obama Rules out Iraq Airstrikes
US President Barack Obama has reportedly ruled out American airstrikes on the Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has captured large portions of Iraq in a lightning blitz.
Obama on Wednesday is to present House and Senate leaders with his "new comprehensive approach," that will focus on providing intelligence to the Iraqi army instead of taking direct military action, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The US president has shown a highly inconsistent position on Iraq; last Friday he committed to not sending troops to Iraq, only to send over 500 marines, dozens of helicopters, and the aircraft carrier George HW Bush into the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.
Now Obama apparently is reversing himself again, backpedaling on his military stance under the claim that the US military doesn't have enough information to hit ISIS targets that would significantly affect the battle.
A senior official praised the move, saying "what the president is focused on is a comprehensive strategy, not just a quick military response. While there may potentially be a military component to it, it's a much broader effort."
Instead, the US is preparing to help provide intelligence and advice to the Iraqi army according to officials.
US-armed and trained Iraqi soldiers were routed in a lightning strike by ISIS that began last Monday in the second-largest city of Mosul. Reportedly thousands of the soldiers simply turned tail and fled, leaving behind their American equipment and weapons for the Islamists to scoop up.
ISIS is now marching on Baghdad, after having conquered parts of the city of Baquba, located just 37 miles from the Iraqi capital. ISIS reportedly captured the city's main police station with its weapons stockpile, as well as several neighborhoods.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, claimed Tuesday that Iraq's army in Baghdad may be better prepared to give more of a fight than they did in the north.
"It appears as if they have the will to defend the capital," Kirby said. "We have reason to believe, certainly indications, that the Iraqi security forces are stiffening their resistance."
One key factor behind the clash between the Sunni ISIS movement and Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq is the position of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who has been accused of marginalizing the Sunni presence in his government and stripping the Sunnis of representation.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that if Maliki was removed from Iraq, it would "not necessarily at all" be more destabilizing.
"If there is a clear successor, if the results of the election are respected, if people come together with the cohesiveness necessary to build a legitimate government that puts the reforms in place that people want - that might wind up being very salutary," opined Kerry.