WASHINGTON, June 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, in an interview aired Monday, defended his country's record in Iraq and urged Iraqi leaders to pull the country together.
The situation in Iraq was stable when the United States pulled all of its troops out ahead of 2012, after the Iraqi government declined to sign a security agreement that would have left some troops in the country, Obama said in an interview with MSNBC, a U.S. broadcaster.
"Just because something's stable two years or four years ago doesn't mean that it's stable right now," Obama said. "And what we have is a situation in which in part because of growing mistrust between Sunni and Shia, that some of the forces that have always possibly pulled Iraq apart are stronger now."
"It is ultimately going to be up to the Iraqi leadership to try to pull the politics of the country back together again," he said.
Obama stressed that while insurgents could present a threat to the United States in the long term, it was not reason enough to "reoccupy" Iraq.
"We're going to have to do our best to work with partners in the region, including hopefully a coherent Iraqi government, to slowly chip away at some of the advances that they've made," Obama said.
The president also said the situation in Iraq does not change his plan to take U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2016.
The United States is prepared to have a residual force in Afghanistan to continue to train Afghan forces and help stabilize the situation, Obama said.
A CBS/New York Times poll released Monday shows that half of Americans do not think the United States has any responsibility to do anything about the violence in Iraq, but 42 percent say their country should respond.
The poll also shows that 41 percent of Americans think Obama is offering the right response to the Iraq violence. Twenty-nine percent say he should do more while 22 percent say he should do less.