WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama says Iraq’s government must make a sincere effort to address sectarian differences, or else U.S. military help won’t succeed in curbing the insurgency there.
He says, quote, “We can’t do it for them.”
Obama says the U.S. won’t send troops back into Iraq. But he says he’s asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options. He says he’ll review those options in the coming days.
Obama says the risk posed by terrorists in Iraq could eventually pose a threat to U.S. interests, too.
A fast-moving insurgency in Iraq has taken over key cities, raising fears Iraq is slipping back into sectarian chaos following the U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Obama spoke just before departing the White House en route to North Dakota.
More than one thousand recruits from the southern Shi’ite province of Kerbala headed on Friday (June13) to Baghdad to reinforce Iraqi forces in their fight against advancing Sunni islamist militants.
The militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gained more ground overnight, moving into two towns in the eastern province of Diyala, while U.S. President Barack Obama considered military strikes to halt their advance towards Baghdad.
After security forces abandoned their posts, security sources said the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla had fallen to the insurgents, along with several villages around the Himreen mountains, which have long been a hideout for militants.
The recruits are the second batch to leave Kerbala over the past two days heading to the army camp of Taji, 30 kilometres (20 miles north) of the capital where they will be enrolled in a one-day training course before being sent to fight alongside the regular army.
“These young people are here today to defend their homeland and all of them are ready to die in defence of their land’s sanctity. They will heroically defend the territories of their country and will terminate the ISIL and all forms of terrorism,” said Haider al-Sultani, head of the recruitment centre in Kerbala.
Chanting and vowing to defeat ISIL militants, the recruits said that they were prepared to die in defence of their homeland.
“We have volunteered to serve our country and defeat the criminal ISIL fighters who harbour malice towards our country. We will go to Mosul, God willing to fight and defeat them,” said of the recruits.
The million-strong Iraqi army, trained by the United States at a cost of nearly $25 billion, is hobbled by low morale and corruption.
Story compiled with information from The Associated Press and Reuters.