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US Reaction: Obama 'Looking at All Options' to Confront Iraq Insurgency

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama
VOA News
President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he was looking at all options in helping the Iraqi government face down a growing insurgency.

"I don't rule anything out,'' Obama said when asked whether the United States is considering drone strikes or any other action to stop the insurgency that has captured several large Iraqi cities, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to flee.

Obama, speaking to reporters at the White House as he met Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said the United States has "a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in Iraq or Syria, for that matter."

He said the United States is prepared to take military action when its national security interests are threatened. To supplement the military and intelligence system already being supplied, Obama said his national security team is "looking at all the options" -- except, his administration later clarified, for sending U.S. troops into Iraq.
 
Fleeing insurgents, refugees from the Iraqi city of Mosul find shelter at Khazir camp near Irbil on June 12, 2014.Fleeing insurgents, refugees from the Iraqi city of Mosul find shelter at Khazir camp near Irbil on June 12, 2014.
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Fleeing insurgents, refugees from the Iraqi city of Mosul find shelter at Khazir camp near Irbil on June 12, 2014.
Fleeing insurgents, refugees from the Iraqi city of Mosul find shelter at Khazir camp near Irbil on June 12, 2014.

The State Department announced Thursday afternoon that it would give an additional $12.8 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis, which has displaced an estimated 500,000 people. The funding -- with $6.6 million allocated to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and $6.2 million to other international organizations -- will help provide food, shelter and urgent medical care.

Amid rising security concerns, some Americans working in Iraq were being temporarily evacuated by their companies Thursday, the State Department told VOA.

Fox News had reported that "three planeloads" of Americans, mostly military contractors and civilians, were being cleared from a base in Balad. One of the largest training missions in Iraq, Balad lies 93 kilometers, or 58 miles, northwest of Baghdad.
 
The State Department has no record of the number of Americans living and working in Iraq, a spokesman said. He added that there has been no change in staffing at the U.S. Embassy and consulates.

Calls for international support

In his comments, Obama said the militants' rapid advance in Iraq over the last few days, and the crumbling Iraqi security, emphasized the need for multinational assistance, with "more help [needed] from us and from the international community."
 
The president said he plans to propose a "partnership" counterterrorism fund. With congressional approval, the United States would provide funding, pooled with that from other countries, to address problems.
 
Referring to his address last month at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama said Iraq's deteriorating security situation underscores "the need for us to have a more robust regional approach to partnering and training."
 
Obama called upon Iraq to resolve its political conflicts between Sunnis and Shiias, adding the groups must “come together and work diligently. And that is going to require concessions."

Mixed reaction in Congress

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner accused Obama of dithering.
 
"It is not like we have not seen over the last five or six months these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq,” Boehner said. “Now they have taken control of Mosul, they are 100 miles from Baghdad.  And what is the president doing? Taking a nap."
 
Senators of both parties emerged with grave expressions from a closed-door briefing by military and intelligence officials.
 
Republican John McCain said the president and his team bear responsibility for the Iraqi crisis.

"I think everybody on his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced," McCain said, citing what he considers a flawed policy. "It is a total failure. We are facing a disaster here."
 
Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham joined in criticizing the president, saying Obama should have left residual U.S. support after the 2011 troop withdrawal. "Ten or 15,000 strategically placed U.S. soldiers would have held this together," he said.

McCain and Graham urged Obama to sit down with his generals and consult with retired personnel who oversaw Iraqi operations, including former CIA chief General David Petraeus, to map out a new course, Reuters reported.

Graham also recommended U.S. air strikes against Islamist Sunni militants. 
 
But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin urged his colleagues to tone down the rhetoric, saying it was too dangerous to play politics: "I have always said, if money or military might would have changed that part of the world, we would have done it by now."
 
Democrat Carl Levin agreed with Manchin.

"We have to be very, very careful and thoughtful before we do anything," Levin said, “and not knee-jerk anything, not jump to any conclusions.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended Obama, saying the deadline for U.S. troops' withdrawal from Iraq "was set by the previous administration."

Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations, she reminded that Iraq's prime minister hadn't approved a status of force agreement with Washington that would have enabled at least some U.S. troops to remain.

International condemnation

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday asked his parliament to convene to declare a state of emergency that would give him increased powers, but the lawmakers have not done so. Many Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the session, objecting to handing Maliki, a Shi'ite, increased authority to combat the militants.

International officials condemned the onslaught of the Islamic militants and the rapid deterioration of Iraqi security.

After meeting to discuss the Iraq situation, members of the U.N. Security Council "strongly condemned all terrorist and extremist acts," its chief, Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin, said Thursday. He added that council members also stressed the importance of "inclusive national dialogue" in rebuilding Iraq's government. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the "integrity of Iraq is in question."

And Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said he and his government "won't tolerate this violence, this terror. And in turn, as we announced at the United Nations, we will fight violence, extremism and terrorism in the region and around the world."

VOA's Michael Bowman and Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information also was provided by Reuters.

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Comments
     
by: ariely shein from: jerusalem
June 29, 2014 2:25 PM
The world is paying the price of many years of ignorance.
Attending Islamist terrorism by people from approximately 80 countries doent come out of the blue.
It is the result of 40 years of hate indoctrination by Islamists worldwide.

The early people criticizing this phenomena were shut down and harshly blamed by the "" political correct"" politicians and media.
They never understood and still don’t understand the Islamist doctrine.
In addition Obama ME faulty policy that inreality backed the Muslims brotherhood the idiology enamy of westren culture and is giving away the sanctions against the Islamist Iran that considers USA their prime enemy to be destroyed and the world collects the results.

They never understood and still don’t understand that freedom is cleverly used by Islamism to promote the Islamist anti freedom doctrine.

For years:
1:TV documentary programs disclosed Islamist activities teaching hate in USA and UK.
However no significant measures have been undertaken to stop those activities.

2; The Arab states huge investments worldwide to build Mosques and Islamic schools with whabe or salafi doctrines teachings

3:The Islamist indoctrination has gained a significant speed and advantage by using:

--modern media communication technologies to reach Muslims worldwide and teach the use of terror as a tactical toll/
--Mosques, schools and preachers worldwide to spread the ideas, recruit new activist.
--· updating the terror tactic- the terror of individuals without connection to any organization
--- individual terror including children age 10 and up and married women without husband permission. · ----the west human rights values and freedom of expression to protect their activities

by: Charles Roche
June 16, 2014 4:52 PM
As often happens...old news seldom reported. I am a contractor in Afghanistan with many friends working in Iraq. Three days ago reports indicated 100 to 200 of my co-worker/friends remained in Balad waiting to be evacuated. Mention was made of them performing their own security with weapons left behind. Nothing followed. No email contact with those I think were waiting to be evacuated. I will hope they made it out and just have other things beyond answering emails going on. It would be nice to find something to indicate all did in fact make it out.

by: matthew elimimian from: nigeria
June 13, 2014 6:21 AM
since the previous and present Iraqi administrations failed to sign a military agreement with US, US is on the fence watching Iraq. And this is cost for Iraq. so stop criticizing Obama. now they will sign

by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
June 12, 2014 10:12 PM
This is the result of sponsorship of terrorist group in Syria by Saudi Arab, Israel, Qatar, Turkey, Jordon and of course US AND EU. What is the use to support terrorism. Give weapons, money and training to human killers to kill poor and helpless peoples. If God give these countries money, then they should invest in Education, Peace, good business climate and basic infrastructure. Who is responsible to create AL QAIDA. Saudi Arab and still SA is number one in sponsorship of Terrorist group in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and other Muslim countries. SA is a helping hand to remove Morsi from Egypt and Gaddafi from Libya. What is the situation in Libya. No life and no security. Who is responsible for this mess, All Big Players.

by: Chi Le from: USA
June 12, 2014 9:38 PM
I don't know whether or not there is a way to prevent the rebels from buying weapons. And there is a similar question for who is supplying weapons of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. If the weapons were controlled strictly, the world peace would come.

by: Jason from: Midwest
June 12, 2014 4:53 PM
So now the government's ears (Obama) ears perk up at the mention of the word, insurgency. Quite pathetic. Iraq is l\a lost cause. It was at the very beginning when Bush attacked and then captured Saddam Hussein. This was as huge a mistake as was U.S. government hicks waring with Vietnam. Over $500 billion of taxpayer money has been squandered on a country run by radical factions. As evil as Mr. Hussein was, at least he kept order among the tribes. Now it's far worse. The U.S. would have been smart to have continued policing Iraq and maintaining a no-fly zone. Our inept and corrupt politicians are ruining the financial stability of my country. It does not get better!

by: Rick Plehal
June 12, 2014 2:13 PM
Hillary and Obama cannot wait to open their mouths to blame Bush for everything. They are elected to solve problems, not blame their predecessors. It seems to be printed on their foreheads - I am surprised Bush was not blamed for Benghazi! Sorry Hillary, some day you may have to take responsibility for your own actions and mouth. Bush has been out of office for six and one half years - is that time for you to think and make decisions on your own??
In Response

by: Rick Plehal
June 13, 2014 12:16 AM
Dee - I served 4 years during the Vietnam war - I believe it was started by Kennedy and escalated under Johnson - I believe they were democrats! Please read before you comment - we pay the President $400k a year to solve problems regardless of who created them. My ;point is spend less time pointing fingers and more time solving problems-we will all be better off!
In Response

by: Dee from: Elizabeth, Nj
June 12, 2014 3:48 PM
Bush,Cheney & Rumsfield started this mess. Stop blaming the Obama administration. You bring up Benghazi all the time. Benghazi started because of what the Bush's did as did many of the attacks against America.How many Americans have died and are currently dying because of the lies told by both Bush adminitrations. McCain's still pissed because he lost to Obama. Face the facts that every time you let a Republican in we go to war and Democrats have to get Republican assholes out of it. For anyone who has never served in the military, politicians included please keep your mouths closed.

by: Not Again from: Canada
June 12, 2014 2:13 PM
Putting boots on the ground would be insanity+++;
The situation in Iraq is a civil war, the sooner this fact is recognized, the more intelligent the potential responses will be. The Shia and Sunni have refused to share power for well over 50+ yrs. Just as it did not make sense to have Iraq under a Sunni dictatorship, so it does not make sense to have Iraq under a Shia dictatorship; in general Iraq does not make sense as a country. The greatest victims of these Shia-Sunni wars/dactatorships, have been the Kurdish people.

Pres GW Bush made the absolutely wrong decision to keep Iraq as a unitarian country, it was absolutely clear from the onset that Iraq can't work. Bush had the opportunity to break up Iraq into three states, a Kurdish state, A Shia State and a Sunni state; each of the distinct people controlling their own interests. And had they wanted to join, at a future date, they would have been free to do so. It could have been an orderly transition to the three states; unfortunately, as for many other screwups, left by the Bush Administration, (economy, unemployment, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Lybia, Syria, Central Africa, Mali, DRC, North Korea, Iran.......immigration, etc ) the mess was left for Pres Obama to try to sort out.

The way ahead, the region's areas need to be stabilized ASAP; starting by ensuring the Kurdish state is formed, spun off, it is already fairly stable; a Shia state in the South can be stabilized and spun off; and then the Syrian state must be broken up into its constituent people/regions, each in term stabilized, and in turn spun off.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 12, 2014 1:45 PM
The US created this mess, and it is only right that the US goes there to clean it up. At the time it seemed too good for Obama to pull out the US troops from Iraq in a hurry, now he sees it differently. Being selfish about all of this seems to spell Obama presidency. He says USA will go in there "when its national security interests are threatened". This proves no interest in helping out except for parochial purposes only. Any way, since it was Obama's policy to pull America and the allied forces out of Iraq without ensuring that Iraq was able to stand up to this kind of emergency, then Obama should also find ways of resolving it if "jihadists" will "not gain a permanent foothold in Iraq...". And he should know how difficult it is to get a multinational force like George Bush was able to do it in what looked like no time. It was so easy to lose the coalition, let's see how much he has to reconstitute another. It was easy to use "bring our troops home" for electioneering campaign, but in times like this, we need that same easy at which we destroyed the coalition to build another. Iraq, not Syria, becomes the very acid test of Obama popularity in the comity of world leaders.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 12, 2014 1:40 PM
Remember when President Obama "quote" said; "Al-Qaeda is on the run, and it's leadership has been decimated" -- I guess President Obama now see's Al-Qaeda and affiliates running throughout all the Islamic countries that the US, EU, and NATO countries interfered in, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen?

The whole Islamic world is erupting in chaos, violence, killings, destruction and wars, caused by the interference of the US, EU, and NATO countries, (and now), Obama doesn't know what to do about it? Remember when President Bush "quote" said; "Saddam is dead, and the world is a safer place" (AND) remember when President Obama "quote" said; "Qaddafi and his sons are dead, and the world is a safer place" (AND THEN?) "Bin Laden is dead, and the world is a safer place" -- I guess Obama see's, (the world is not a safer place, because of HIM)

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