President Barack Obama said Thursday that he was considering a variety of options to respond to ensure "jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold" in Iraq or Syria.
"What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help," Obama told reporters. "It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community."
Obama said his team is considering it's options, which includes airstrikes but not ground troops. He said "there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily."
"This is an area that we’ve been watching with a lot of concern not just over the last couple of days but over the last several months, and we’ve been in close consultation with the Iraqi government," he said. "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. That includes, in some cases, military equipment. It includes intelligence assistance. It includes a whole host of issues."
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Obama spoke briefly to reporters just after a meeting with the prime minister of Australia in the Oval Office. He said the U.S. has been providing assistance to the Iraqi government over the last year.
"But this should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government," he said."There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against these extremists. And that is going to require concessions on the part of both Shia and Sunni that we haven’t seen so far."
The politics of Shia and Sunni inside of Iraq, as well as the Kurds, is either going to be a help in dealing with this jihadist situation, or it’s going to be a hindrance. And frankly, over the last several years, we have not seen the kind of trust and cooperation develop between moderate Sunni and Shia leaders inside of Iraq, and that accounts in part for some of the weakness of the state, and that then carries over into their military capacity."
Obama stressed that the United States can't be everywhere. "We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time, but what we can do is to make sure that we are consistently helping to finance, train, advise military forces with partner countries, including Iraq, that have the capacity to maintain their own security," he said. "And that is a long and laborious process, but it’s one that we need to get started."