Obama on Iraq: 'I don't rule anything out'
President Barack Obama has said he would “not rule anything out” in an American response to the extremist takeover of key Iraq cities.
Addressing reporters in the White House with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the US President said Iraq was going to need more help from both the United States and the international community and that jihadists would not be allowed to take a permanent foothold in the region.
He said the situation demanded an immediate response and that his national security staff was considering all options short of sending US troops.
The President is facing criticism that militants from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were emboldened by his decision not to intervene in the Syrian civil war and reports that he has refused Iraq requests for airstrikes against the militants.
“My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don't rule out anything, because 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,” he said.
It is understood the administration is now considering air strikes but has ruled out sending US troops.
Asked what would provoke a US military response, Mr Obama reiterated points he made in a recent foreign policy speech at the West Point military academy, that America would strike unilaterally if its national security was threatened but would otherwise seek to build coalitions.
He said Australia was one of a handful of nation’s American knew it could always count on, not just because of shared values, but because of military capability.
“Aussies know how to fight, and I like having them in a foxhole if we're in trouble.”
Before President Obama appeared with the Prime Minister, the Republican Speaker of the House told reporters, "It's not like we haven't seen this problem coming for over a year. They're 100 miles from Baghdad, and what's the president doing? Taking a nap." He said the President should not have celebrated America’s withdrawal from Iraq, but focused on "completing our mission successfully".
In a statement on Wednesday night, the White House said it would work with Congress to ''continue to provide, and as required increase, assistance'' to Iraq to stop the insurgency.
"ISIL’s recent actions in Mosul and surrounding areas demonstrate once again that these extremists seek nothing but death and destruction," the statement said.
"The United States will stand with Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum as they forge the national unity necessary to succeed in the fight against ISIL."