U.S. ready to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq: Obama
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.