President Barak Obama has not yet announced a decision on the shape and extent of US military intervention in Iraq, but he may be considering targeted and selective air strikes.
But it won’t be an air war, and it won’t occur immediately.
Targeted air strikes against ISIS insurgents, possibly by drones, were among a range of options presented to the president earlier this week, said The New York Times.
A large-scale air campaign was ruled out because of, one, the small number of insurgents involved and, two, they were dispersed among civilian populations.
Strikes from Predator and Reaper drones, which the US has used in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen — to kill al-Qaeda leaders such as Ilyas Kashmiri and Anwar al-Awlaki — are more likely.
The president has invited congressional leaders for consultations later on Wednesday. Some lawmakers, from both sides, have been pressing for military intervention.
Even they are not demanding boots on the ground though. And President Obama made it clear in comments last week he was not sending American troops back into Iraq.
“We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options,” Obama said last Friday.
Apart from drone strikes, the president has been presented with options that include supporting the Iraqi army with additional military hardware, advisers and intelligence.
The administration also plans to emphasize the need for a political solution — pressing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to embrace a more inclusive approach.
“This is not primarily a military challenge,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, adding, “Iraq needs significantly more help to break the momentum of extremist groups.”
The US has also been in touch with Iraq’s neighbours, including Iran. Deputy secretary of state William Burns met Iranians “briefly” in Vienna on the sidelines of P5+1 on Tuesday.
“They discussed the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and the need to refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda,” said state department spokesperson Jen Psaki.