Obama: Iraq will need additional US assistance

President Barack Obama answers questions on violence in Iraq during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama answers questions on violence in Iraq during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By Julie Pace

AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Thursday that Iraq will need more help from the United States as it seeks to push back a violent Islamic insurgency that has captured two key cities and threatens to press toward Baghdad.

Obama did not specify what type of assistance the U.S. would be willing to provide but said he had not ruled out any options.

“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,” Obama said during an Oval Office meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Senior administration officials said the U.S. was considering whether to conduct drone missions in Iraq but was not looking to put American forces on the ground. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name and requested anonymity.

Iraq has been beset by resurgent violence since the last American troops withdrew in late 2011 after more than eight years of war. The violence escalated this week with an al-Qaida-inspired group capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities this week and talking of a march on Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders have pleaded with the Obama administration for more than a year for additional help to combat the growing insurgency, which has been fueled by the unrelenting civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are seeding the Syrian war’s violence in Iraq and beyond.

House Speaker John Boehner said Obama’s policies in Iraq were jeopardizing the progress the United States made in years of fighting. He noted that terrorists have been capturing territory, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the home of the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

“They’re 100 miles from Baghdad,” Boehner said. “And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap.”

The president said he was watching the situation in with concern and his team was working around the clock to identify the most effective assistance. He said that while short-term military solutions were required to tamp down the growing insurgency, Iraq also needed to make longer-term political changes.

If Obama orders US military strikes or involves American forces, he would face opposition in the House. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked, “Where are they going to get the funds?”

“To just go in and burn up more resources on a place that seems bent on destruction,” McKeon told reporters. “We had an opportunity there. They had an opportunity there. We blew it. They blew it. I don’t think we’re ready to go in another one.”

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Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

  • FrereJocques

    Why should we spend one more dime on Iraq? We left that nation after their moronic Prime Minister Maliki refused to grant American troops immunity from local prosecution for war crimes. Now he’s suffering the consequences of that decision. He made his own bed; now he can lie in it.

    Nothing we do in Iraq will have any long-term consequence. The terrorists now know that they can get what they want if they simply wait long enough.

    Obama is “deeply concerned”. It seem that that’s all he is these days. He was “deeply concerned” when Russia invaded the Crimea. After some milquetoast actions, the Russians are still there, and apparently not going anywhere.

    Let the jihadists take over. They are already doing a superb job of killing each other off. If they try to spread beyond their own borders, send a few nukes over. It should be clear by now that nothing else will have any influence over them.

    Muslims don’t want religious freedom. They want the legitimacy and the means to kill those who disagree with them. In their eyes, the only ones deserving to live are themselves. Don’t forget, that includes non-Muslims as well. Especially Americans.