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Obama Says Measures Being Taken To Help Iraq

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq from the briefing room of the White House in Washington on June 19.
U.S. President Barack Obama says a series of measures are being taken in connection with the situation in Iraq where militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have captured large parts of the western and northern part of the country.

Speaking at a June 19 press briefing in Washington, Obama said security at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq has been increased, intelligence efforts are being stepped up, and there will be more general support given to Baghdad.

Obama said a small contingent of U.S. troops, no more than 300, will go to Iraq but there will be no combat forces sent.

"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," he said.

Obama noted that the United States has moved additional military assets into the region to provide the best intelligence possible about what ISIL (also known as ISIS) is doing and where the militants are located.

This includes overflights of Iraqi territory by U.S. planes and drones as well as U.S. naval vessels stationed in the Persian Gulf.

He said "targeted and precise military action could be taken if and when" it is deemed necessary.

Obama said Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together for Iraq's future.

He stressed that it is in U.S. security interests that Iraq not fall into an all-out civil war or become a haven for international terrorist groups.

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In the meantime, Obama made clear that the Iraqi government needs to change and become more inclusive.

Obama said it is not the responsibility of the United States to choose Iraq's leadership, but Iraqi authorities must consider the interests of the country's Sunni, Kurdish, and other minorities.

Obama also commented on the potential role of Iran in Iraq, saying that he welcomes the Iranian leadership voicing a similar message as that of the United States -- that there is a need for an inclusive government in Iraq.

Obama said if Iran were only interested in helping Shi'a in Iraq it would make the situation in Iraq worse and have grave implications for the future.

Lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill were generally supportive of Obama's moves.

"I felt that what the president said today is a much better place to be than [where] we were 24 hours ago at the beginning of this morning," said Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).

"I think all of the things he announced make sense," said Senator Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I think the United States can't ignore what is happening and the president is right to be proposing some limited amount of military assistance," said Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut.)

Two top Iraq hawks, Senators John McCain (Republican-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) called the move a "positive step" in a statement, but added they were "deeply concerned that the President continues to make political change in Iraq the prerequisite for greater U.S. military and other actions."

As Obama spoke, ISIL militants were fighting with government forces for control over Iraq's largest refinery in Baiji, some 200 kilometers north of Baghdad.

ISIL militants remained in control of Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and the city of Tikrit.
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