WASHINGTON, June 13 (Xinhua) -- President Barack Obama on Friday ruled out sending back U.S. troops and set conditions for aid in helping the Iraqi forces fight Islamist militants who are making rapid gains on the ground.
"We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq," Obama told reporters at the White House South Lawn, acknowledging "significant gains" made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, an offshoot of al-Qaida also known as ISIL, in the past few days.
"Given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat, eventually, to American interests as well," he cautioned.
He said he had asked his national security team to prepare "a range of other options" in support of Iraqi security forces. "I'll be reviewing those options in the days ahead," he added.
The ISIL is pressing on to the capital city of Baghdad after seizing major cities in northern Iraq in recent days, including Mosul, the second largest, and Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reportedly asked for American airstrikes against extremist staging areas in his country.
In his South Lawn remarks, Obama said what Iraq is facing "is not solely or even primarily a military challenge." He conditioned U.S. assistance on Baghdad's "serious and sincere" efforts to set aside sectarian differences, promote stability, account for the " legitimate interests" of all of Iraq's communities and build the capacity of the security forces.
"In the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won't succeed," Obama stressed. "The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they're prepared to work together."
He said Washington will be monitoring the situation in Iraq " very carefully" over the next few days, with top priority on protecting U.S. personnel serving overseas from "any threats."
The ISIL militants seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul on Wednesday and detained 49 personnel including the consul general.
Some in Washington have blamed the worsening situation on the Obama administration's withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq in December 2011 following an eight-year-old war, after the Arab country refused to grant legal immunity to remaining U.S. soldiers.
The Obama administration expedited the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Baghdad, among them Apache attack helicopters, Hellfire missiles and F-16 fighters, and stepped up training of Iraqi security forces early this year, after the ISIL and other rebels occupied Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, big cities in the western province of Anbar.
GENEVA, June 13 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday expressed extreme alarm at the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Iraq.
Pillay's remarks came after bloody clashes broke out last week between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of gunmen who took control of several neighborhoods in western part of Mosul and other areas and provinces, which forced massive displacement of some half a million people. Full story