On his way out of Washington moments ago, President Obama said his team is coming up with a list of possible reactions to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s terrifying sweep through Iraq.
Obama said he convened a meeting with his National Security Council on Thursday and this morning received an update.
He noted that there have been “significant gains” by the successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq. “Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities,” the president said, adding the seizure of Iraq by terrorists “could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.”
“This threat is not brand new,” Obama continued, noting that “over the past year” the administration has been “stepping up assistance” to Baghdad. “Now Iraq needs additional assistance.”
“We will not be sending U.S. troops back into Iraq,” he said, but in the “days ahead” he will review other options such as airstrikes or drone strikes as well as “intensive diplomacy.”
Obama branded the crisis as “not solely or primarily a military challenge” but rooted in mistrust over sectarian differences.
He called for a “serious and sincere effort” by Iraq’s leaders to promote reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
“The United States will do our part but understand it’s ultimately up to the Iraqis, a sovereign nation, to solve their problems… various military actions are not going to solve those problems over the long term.”
When asked if the war in Syria had spilled over into Iraq, Obama acknowledged, “I think that’s been happening for some time… that’s part of the reason we’ve been so concerned about it.”
He noted that “so far at least we have not seen major disruptions in oil supply” due to the fall of Iraq.
“As you might expect, world oil markets react to any sort of instability in the Middle East,” Obama added.
“The United States is not simply going to involve itself in military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis.”
The president and first lady are flying to North Dakota today for a roundtable with tribal youths at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation. They’ll attend the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration, where Obama will deliver remarks.
The first couple then flies to Palm Springs this evening. On Saturday Obama will deliver the commencement address at UC Irvine and attend a DNC event in L.A. The rest of the time will be spent in Palm Springs until they return to Washington on Monday.