(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) While US troops will not be sent back into combat in Iraq, President Barack Obama on Friday said he had asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options to help support Iraqi security forces.
"Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq's communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force," Obama said in remarks at the White House.
"We cannot do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action -- including any assistance we might provide -- will not succeed," he said.
Obama said he met with his National Security Council on Thursday and this morning to discuss the situation in Iraq.
"Over the last several days, we have seen significant gains made by ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria," he said. "In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq's territory. And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people, and given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well." The threat is not brand-new, Obama said. "Over the last year, we have been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence," he said. "Now Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces." This should be a wake-up call, the President said. "Iraq's leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together," he said. "In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies." Iraq's neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process, he said.
"Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos," he said. "So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it is up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems."