As al-Qaida-backed forces march closer to Baghdad, President Barack Obama asserted Thursday, he’s not ruled out any courses of action – including sending American resources into the fray, including military equipment and intelligence assistance. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday morning to reiterate the U.S. would continue to support his government against the insurgency
"What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help. It’s going to need more help from us and it’s going to need more help from the international community,” he said in brief comments made to a pool reporter.
Al-Maliki, who celebrated when U.S. forces left Iraq just two years ago, requested the U.S. help it conduct airstrikes. The White House has yet to make a decision, but the action is not unlike those taken in other parts of the Middle East; the administration launched past drone strikes in Yemen and just this week hit a target in Pakistan.
Whatever action the U.S. takes, it needs to be a “wake up call from the Iraqi government,” Obama said.
While, Islamic militants have been inciting violence in Iraq since U.S. forces withdrew in December of 2011, the violence escalated rapidly this week when jihadists took control of Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq. Its insurrection continued Wednesday, as forces overtook oil-center Baiji and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. In some places, the al-Qaida forces are teaming up with former leaders who fought under Hussein and their takeovers are forcing Iraqis to flee from their homes. The International Organization for Migration estimated 500,000 Iraqis had left their homes in Mosul, many of them on foot.
The situation in Iraq exposes deep divisions on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers are reluctant to reinsert themselves in a messy and unpopular conflict. Others, however, have pointed at the crumbling situation in Iraq as proof the Obama administration made the wrong call in leaving Iraq – a country where more than 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives in a nearly decadelong war.
“It is clear that this decision of a complete pullout of troops from Iraq was dictated by politics and not our national security interests,” Sen. John McCain said Thursday on the Senate floor. “I believe history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain that it deserves.”
Earlier in the day, McCain called on Obama’s national security team to step down because of the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
“Get rid of this national security team,” McCain told reporters, as he called for the resignation of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.