By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is considering offering new military aid to Iraq as its beleaguered government tries to fend off an Islamic insurgency, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
“It’s going to need more help from us and it’s going to need more help from the international community,” Obama told reporters in brief comments from the Oval Office. “That includes, in some cases military equipment, it includes intelligence assistance, it includes a whole host of issues.”
Obama said his team was working “around the clock” and considering “all the options.”
“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 either Iraq or Syria, for that matter,” he said in response to a question about possible air strikes.
The remarks were his first since Sunni Muslim militants known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria this week seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Tikrit, the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The fighters were threatening to march south to Baghdad, the capital.
A senior administration official later said the U.S. was not considering putting its troops in Iraq.
U.S. officials have previously said their focus was on helping Iraq forces “build capacity.”
U.S. officials were taken by surprise by the swift siege and relative ease with which the militants overtook the U.S-trained Iraqi forces. U.S. has provided substantial arms and weaponry to the Iraq army since it withdrew its forces in 2011.
Obama said that in consultations with Iraq there will be some “short-term, immediate things that will need to be done militarily,” he said. “But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government that there has to be a political component to this.”
AFP Photo/Marwan Ibrahim