WASHINGTON – President Obama said on Friday he is weighing options for countering the violent Islamic insurgency in Iraq, but he warned government leaders in Baghdad the U.S. will not take military action unless they move to address deep political troubles.
“We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which, while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, after we’re not there, people start acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country,” Obama said from the South Lawn of the White House.
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, said U.S. assistance “would only be successful if Iraqi leaders were willing to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to forge the national unity necessary to move the country forward and confront the threat of ISIL,” according to a statement by the State Department.
Kerry is highlighting the importance of the Iraqi government ratifying election results without delay, adhering to its constitutionally mandated timeframe for forming a new government, and respecting the rights of all citizens as it fights against terrorism, the State Department said.
The last U.S. troops withdrew in 2011 after more than eight years of war and the president has ruled out sending American troops back into combat in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the USS George H.W. Bush from the northern Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf as President Obama is weighing military actions options.
Hagel’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said the move will give the US the flexibility necessary if military action is required to protect American interests and citizens in Iraq.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun will accompany the USS George H.W. Bush. The ships carry Tomahawk missiles, as well as fighter jets, that could reach Iraq fro their Gulf positions, were expected to move into the Persian Gulf by the end of the day, Saturday.
Obama has stated that the administration will take time to finalize its response to the situation on the ground in Iraq.
“We want to make sure we have gathered all the intelligence that is necessary so that if in fact I do direct and order any actions there that they are targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect,” Obama said.
The President is now on a four-day trip to North Dakota and California, visiting Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Saturday.
Militants have vowed they will take Baghdad. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has overrn Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit and smaller communities, as well as military and police bases — often meeting little resistance from state security forces. The militants have vowed to press on to Baghdad.
Reports are that approximately 200 U.S. defense contractors have been under attack from small arms, AK47, and RPG rounds while attempting to defend the perimeter of Joint Base Balad in Iraq. “300 in total have been evacuated from Balad and another 100 are still awaiting airlift. The Iraqi Air Force is trying to evacuate everyone by midnight local time.
Joint Base Balad, formerly known as Balad Air Base and Camp Anaconda, was one of the U.S. military’s biggest bases in the Iraq War. Balad, a primarily Shiite town, is located 50 miles north of Baghdad.
The fast-moving rebellion, which also draws support from former Saddam-era figures and other disaffected Sunnis, has emerged as the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the U.S. withdrawal. It has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.
Islamic militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have captured large swaths of territory north of Baghdad. Their advance on the capital was sending food prices dramatically higher and prompting tighter security in the city of 7 million people.
Amid sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite citizens, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for unity of all Iraqis. A Shiite, al-Maliki is widely resented by Sunnis for his perceived sectarian policies.
Kerry told Zebari that the U.S. was emphasizing with the international community as well as those in the region the threat posed by ISIL and the importance of coming to the aid of Iraq.