US President Barack Obama held talks with security chiefs over the unfolding crisis in Iraq on Friday, claiming he was reviewing military options, but had no plans to send American troops back to the country.
Obama also stressed the need, on the part of Iraq’s leaders, to bridge sectarian divisions.
“Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities,” Obama said.
Obama’s reluctance to return ground troops to Iraq since their withdrawal from the country in 2011 means his administration is said to be urgently considering air assaults against the Islamic extremists sweeping the country. But there remains deep concern in Washington about directly supporting Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki who is blamed in some quarters for fuelling the insurgency.
“I think we have to do it as part of a larger package that is not seen simply as coming to Maliki’s aid, because Maliki has caused a lot of these problems. He has basically run his government in a very sectarian way, he has been very harsh to the Sunnis, he has exercised his power arbitrarily,” former US National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told euronews.
From Washington, euronews’ US correspondent Stefan Grobe said: “The newly-established Obama doctrine stipulates less US involvement in the Middle East and elsewhere. And this is what the President emphasised again. Despite some US support, it’s the Iraqi government that is in charge.”