The United States will send upto 300 military advisers to help Iraq fight insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said to be within 40 miles of Baghdad.
But they will not be returning to combat. “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again,” President Obama said, announcing a set of measures on Thursday.
The advisers will “assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward”, he added.
The United States was also “prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it”, he said.
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The United States moved an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf recently, which the Pentagon said, was to give the president options — of air strikes — should he want to exercise them.
And, saying that it was not for the US to choose Iraq’s leaders, he did put the present lot on notice: “It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.”
The US has been frustrated by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s refusal to take other ethnic groups on board such as the Sunnis and Kurds, making the defense of Iraq a Shiite endeavor solely.
The United States will also lead a diplomatic effort to work with countries in the region to bring stability to Iraq. Secretary of state John Kerry will be heading to the region shortly.
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Iran can play a constructive role, the president said, if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it’s inclusive and that — if the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected.”
Obama made these announcement after a long meeting with his national security team including secretary of state Kerry, defense secretary Chuck Hagel and national security advisor Susan Rice.
Pressure had been building on President Obama from lawmakers of both parties in recent days to order some military action to prevent Iraq from falling to the ISIS insurgents.
He met congressional leaders from both parties on Wednesday.
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