President Barack Obama said he would consider doing “anything” to respond gains militant extremists have made in Iraq over the past few days. Obama also specifically said military options are on the table.
“There will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office Thursday afternoon after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “And our national security team is looking into all the options.”
Obama said Iraq will “need” additional U.S. assistance, but he did not specify what immediate assistance the U.S. would be willing to provide Iraq, where violence has flared since America pulled out troops in 2011.
“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.
White House press secretary Jay Carney quickly clarified that though Obama said he wouldn’t rule out “anything,” the U.S. will not consider putting troops on the ground in Iraq.
“I want to be clear about that,” Carney told reporters at the top of the White House daily press briefing.
Obama has come under increasing fire this week, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group so extreme it was expelled from al-Qaeda’s global network earlier this year, has made major advances. It has seized control of the key Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and it has gained facilities in the oil-refining town of Baiji. And the group says it will march to Baghdad.
“It’s not like we haven’t seen this problem coming for over a year,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference on Thursday. “They’re 100 miles from Baghdad. And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap!”
On the Senate floor Thursday, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Arizona), two of the fiercest critics of the administration’s foreign policy, reamed into Obama. McCain made the aggressive suggestion Obama should replace his entire national security braintrust. Graham said a Pentagon briefing earlier in the day “scared the hell” out of him.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Iran said it deployed forces from its Revolutionary Guard to fight the ISIS insurgents, raising the interesting prospect of both Iran and the U.S. providing military aid to Iraq.