June 13 at 12:11 PM
President Obama delivered the following statement on the crisis in Iraq at the White House on Friday.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody.
I want to take some time to give you a quick update about the situation in Iraq. Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my national security council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team. Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria. In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory, and this poses a danger to Iraq and its people. And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat, eventually, to American interests as well.
Now, this threat is not brand new. Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government, with increased training, equipping and intelligence.
Now Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.
We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
I do want to be clear, though. This is not solely or even primarily a military challenge. Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government, as well as their security forces.
So, any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them.
And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. So this should be a wake-up call. Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.
In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies.
Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process. Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos. So, the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems.
More to come.