"We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," Obama told reporters on Friday.
Obama said that the US could not solve Iraq's political problems for them. He said that the US would "do our part," but that it was up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to act.
"We have enormous interests there, we made huge investments to give Iraq the opportunity to chart a better course, but ultimately they have to seize it. Given the difficult history there, any objective observer will recognize that various military actions... by any outside nation won't solve the problems," Obama said.
He said the US would "pursue intensive diplomacy" to make sure that ISIL - which he called a vicious terrorist organization - does not get a broader foothold in the region. The US will review the situation over the next few days, the president added.
Obama also hinted at more deep-rooted issues in Iraq that have seen Prime Minister al-Maliki unable, or some say unwilling, to commit to fighting sectarian rifts. "The US poured a lot of money into Iraq's security forces, and the fact that they are not willing to fight against terrorists... that are not overwhelming in numbers, suggests there is problems with morale and commitment, rooted in political long-term problems," the US president said.
Speaking hours after Obama’s announcement not to send troops back to Iraq, former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in on the issue, saying deteriorating conditions in Iraq could have "broad regional and even global consequences."
It was important, she added, that Iraq’s prime minister be presented with a number of conditions for any discussion about military support against the fast-moving Islamic insurgency.
"That’s a delicate and difficult task for our government because we certainly don’t want to fight their fight," Clinton added. "Because you’d be fighting for a dysfunctional, unrepresentative, authoritarian government and there’s no reason on earth that I know of that we would ever sacrifice an American life for that."
jlw, ng/lw (Reuters, AP)