Obama considering all options as Iraq erupts in violence

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Photo - WBZ-TV
U.S. President Barack Obama has said his government is looking at "all options" to help Iraq fight Islamist militants who have captured the country\’s second largest city and key towns to the north of Baghdad, but he has ruled out sending ground troops.

The president did not rule out air strikes, raising the possibility of the first American military intervention in Iraq since the US-led war ended in 2011.
"Iraq is going to need more help. It\’s going to need more help from us, and it\’s going to need more help from the international community," Obama said.
"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," he said. 
ISIL, which aims to establish an Islamic state that straddles ‎the border of Iraq and Syria. has launched a military campaign in nearly a third of the country along with associated groups.
On Wednesday, the fighters seized Tikrit, 140km northwest of Baghdad, as Iraqi soldiers fled.
The day before, they captured Mosul, Iraq\’s second-largest city. ISIL and its allies among local tribesmen also hold the city of Fallujah and other pockets of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
Unconfirmed reports on Thursday said Iraqi forces had launched air strikes on Mosul and Tikrit targeting the militants.
Iran says it will fight terrorism in neighboring Iraq following the quick capture of several Iraqi cities this week by the Sunni Muslim militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
On state TV Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said “As a state, we will not tolerate violence and terror. We fight against terrorism, violence and radicalism, as we have announced that at the United Nations general session.”
However, he did not give specifics on how Shi\’ite-majority Iran might support the Shi\’ite-led government in Iraq. Iran’s National Security Council met Thursday to discuss Iraq, but there was no news as to what it decided.
The deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, predicted the Sunni Islamist militia in Iraq is going to lose “very soon.”  Salami also said the U.S. and its Western allies are to blame for the situation in Iraq, saying their military intervention in the region had destabilized it.

About 500,000 people have fled their homes in fear of increased violence from the ISIL takeovers and possible military assaults by the army to retake control over the seized areas.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama said the Iraqis needed to do more to bridge sectarian divides in the country, but he noted military action was needed right away.
"It\’s fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options," Obama said.
"But this should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government. There has to be a political component to this." 
White House spokesman Jay Carney said later that the United States was not contemplating sending ground troops to Iraq.
The US has begun moving defence contractors working with the Iraqi military to safer areas.
"We can confirm that US citizens, under contract to the government of Iraq, in support of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
Several hundred were being evacuated from Balad air base to Baghdad, a US defence official told AFP.
Source – Agencies

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