World Bulletin/News Desk
US President Barack Obama has declined to confirm or deny whether he is considering airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq, saying he has ruled nothing out.
His comments on Thursday came after The New York Times reported Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration last month to consider manned and unmanned airstrikes to halt growing advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the north of the country.
Obama told reporters at the White House during a joint press conference with Australian Premier Tony Abbott: “Over the last year, we have been providing them additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, in the northwestern portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border.
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help.”
Obama said he was looking at "all options" to help Iraq's leaders, who took full control when the U.S. occupation ended in 2011. "In our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily," he said.
But he also referred to longstanding U.S. complaints that Shi'ite prime minister Nuri al-Maliki had failed to do enough to heal a sectarian rift that has left many in the big Sunni minority, ousted from power when U.S. troops overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003, nursing grievances and keen for revenge.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Maliki by telephone on Thursday. The White House signalled on Wednesday that it was looking to strengthen Iraqi forces rather than meet what one U.S. official said were past Iraqi requests for air strikes.
ISIL, which has developed into a formidable force inside Syria, has extended its reach in Iraq since Tuesday, gaining near-complete control of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit - Saddam Hussein’s birthplace - and capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
Fears of violence spreading may increase pressure for international action, however. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said international powers "must deal with the situation".
At Baiji, near Kirkuk, insurgents surrounded Iraq's largest refinery, underscoring the potential threat to the oil industry, and residents near the Syrian border saw them bulldozing tracks through frontier sand berms.
The group seized large swaths of western Iraq’s Anbar Province in late December, including much of Fallujah and Ramadi, flashpoints of the 2003 US-led war in the country.
'Taking a nap'
At Mosul, which had a population close to 2 million before recent events forced hundreds of thousands to flee, witnesses saw ISIL fly two helicopters over the parade, apparently the first time the militant group has obtained aircraft in years of waging insurgency on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian frontier.
It was unclear who the pilots were, but Sunnis who served in the forces of Saddam have rallied to the insurgency.
State television showed what it said was aerial footage of Iraqi aircraft firing missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul. The targets could be seen exploding in black clouds.
However, lawmakers on Capitol Hill lashed out at the administration over its Iraq policy.
John Boehner, the US Speaker of the House, said Obama had been “taking a nap” while successive parts of Iraq fell out of the control of the Iraqi government.
He said: “It's not like we haven't seen, over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in, taking control of Western Iraq.
"Now they've taken control of Mosul. They're 100 miles from Baghdad. And what's the president doing? Taking a nap.”
US troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011.Last Mod: 13 Haziran 2014, 09:53