President Obama held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the White House’s plan of action to deal with the ongoing crisis in Iraq.
The president, who arrived over an hour late, said, “[ISIS] poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.”
Obama said his first priority is to “secure our embassy and its personnel inside of Iraq”. He continued, “I have taken some steps to relocate some of our embassy personnel and we have sent reinforcements to better secure our facilities.”
The president said the United States has significantly increased its ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) assets in the region to get a “better picture of what’s taking place inside Iraq”.
“We are prepared to send a small number of American military advisors, up to 300, to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward,” said the president. Obama said that we would not use the 300 soldiers as a fighting force and would strictly have an advisory role.
“We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” said the president.
Obama continued, saying that the White House would share intelligence to confront ISIS. He did not mention with whom or with what countries intelligence would be shared.
The president said that the U.S. will “work with countries in the region” to take on the sectarian issues in Iraq.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry would not officially rule out military cooperation with Iran. Secretary Kerry said in an interview Thursday with CNBC that the U.S. would be willing to share information with Tehran.
The commander in chief, hinting at his dissatisfaction with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, said, “Only leaders who can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.”
“American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again,” The president concluded.
A reporter asked the president if he regretted not leaving a residual force in Iraq. Obama denied that he had a say in the matter, blaming Prime Minister Maliki for the U.S. failure to leave a contingency force stationed in Iraq. “Keep in mind, that wasn’t a decision made by me; that was a decision made by the Iraqi government,” he said.
Another reporter asked the president what role the Islamic Shia Iran can play in Iraq. Obama was open to Iranian involvement so long as the “interests of Sunni, Shia, and Kurd” are respected. He continued, “Old habits die hard, and we will have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days.”