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Obama on Iraq security: 'We can't do it for them'

| Friday, June 13, 2014, 12:21 p.m.
President Barack Obama talks about his administration's response to a growing insurgency foothold in Iraq, Friday, June 13, 2014, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, prior to boarding the Marine One Helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base, Md., then onto North Dakota and California.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Friday he is weighing a range of options for countering a violent Islamic insurgency in Iraq, but he warned government leaders in Baghdad that he would not take military action unless they move to address deep-seeded political troubles.

“We're not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which, while we're there we're keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, after we're not there, people start acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country,” Obama said from the South Lawn of the White House.

The president did not specify what options he was considering, but he ruled out sending American troops back into combat in Iraq. The last U.S. troops withdrew in 2011 after more than eight years of war.

Obama argued that the insurgency is not only a danger to the Iraqi people but also to American interests in a volatile region.

Administration officials said Obama is considering airstrikes using drones or manned aircraft. Other short-term options include an increase in surveillance and intelligence gathering, including satellite coverage and other monitoring efforts. The U.S. also is likely to increase various forms of aid to Iraq, including funding, training and providing both lethal and non-lethal equipment.

Obama suggested it could take several days before the administration finalizes its response to the situation on the ground in Iraq. Following his statement, the president left for a four-day trip to North Dakota and California.

The al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has quickly overrun Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul, Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and smaller communities, as well as military and police bases - often meeting little resistance from state security forces.

The fast-moving rebellion, which also draws support from former Saddam-era figures and other disaffected Sunnis, has emerged as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability since the U.S. withdrawal. It has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.

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