|U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about situation in Iraq at the briefing room of the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on June 19, 2014. The United States is prepared to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to train, advise and support Iraqi forces in their fight against insurgency, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
WASHINGTON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The United States is prepared to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to train, advise and support Iraqi forces in their fight against insurgency, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday.
While reiterating that American forces would not be returning to combat in Iraq, Obama said the U.S. is ready to take "targeted" and "precise" military actions "if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it."
In the case of military strikes, the "best and most effective" response to the insurgency will involve partnerships where Iraqi forces take the lead, Obama said at a press conference held at the White House.
"We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq," Obama said after having met with his national security team. "Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis. "
In another effort to boost the support to Iraqi forces, the United States is prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the threat from Islamic militants, Obama said.
Militants of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have gained lightening advances in Iraq and are pressing on to the capital city of Baghdad after seizing two major cities in northern Iraq -- Mosul and Tikrit -- in recent days.
On Thursday, Obama also urged Iraqi leaders to "rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future."
"It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis," Obama said.
But the U.S. President stopped short of calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign, saying that "it's not the place for the United States to choose Iraq's leaders."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will leave this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe to consult with U.S. allies and partners on the situation in Iraq, Obama said.
At the press conference, Obama said Iran can play a " constructive" role if it sends a message that Iraq's government must be more inclusive and respect the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd.
"If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia and if it is framed in that fashion then that probably worsens the situation." he said.
Battles continue in Iraq, security forces repel attack on oil refinery
BAGHDAD, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and Sunni militant groups continued in several Iraqi provinces on Thursday, as government troops repelled multiple militant attacks on a major oil refinery in Salahudin province, security sources said.
The security forces, with air support, fought back several militant offensives against the oil refinery of Baiji, located some 200 km north of the capital Baghdad, Lieutenant General Qassim Atta and security spokesman of Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki said at a news conference in Baghdad. Full story
Kerry says U.S. intervention not to help Iraqi PM
WASHINGTON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Secretary of State John Kerry stressed on Thursday that any U.S. intervention in Iraq to help stem the advances by Islamic militants is not meant to support the country's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"This is not about al-Maliki," the top American envoy told NBC' s "Today" program in an interview. "Let me stress, what the United States is doing is about Iraq. And nothing that the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister al-Maliki." Full story