President Barack Obama on Friday said the U.S. is reviewing options to aid Iraq amid an escalating crisis in the region, even as he cautioned against getting too involved in a conflict he tried to bring to an end in 2011.
Obama said over the coming days, he would decide on a range of options presented by his national security team, though he stressed that no U.S. troops would be sent to Iraq. And Obama put much of the burden on Iraq to solve its own problem, stressing U.S. military assistance to Iraq would be predicated on political reform by Iraqi leaders.
“Ultimately it’s up the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems,” Obama said during a press conference on the South Lawn of the White House. “This is a regional problem, and this is going to be a long-term problem.”
“We can’t do it for them,” he added. “And in the absence of this sort of political effort, short-term military action won’t succeed.”
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 this week. 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.
Obama hinted Thursday that the U.S. would take action militarily, but he did not specify what steps those might be. He said he wasn’t ruling out any option, but his administration later clarified he would not consider sending troops into the country. Obama repeated that Friday, saying “we will not be sending troops back into combat.”
Obama said the situation presents danger to Iraq and its people, as well as a potential danger to the interests of the United States. But his statement offered a tone of extreme caution for a president who has hailed ending U.S. involvement in Iraq as one of his signature foreign-policy achievements.
After his statement, Obama will boarded Marine One for a trip to the Cannon Ball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation.
This post has been updated.
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