The onslaught against the Iraqi government by al Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is threatening to overtake the American embassy in Baghdad, and as the bad news spreads from city to city in the nation, President Obama finally weighed in, offering any available help to the Iraqi government.
“It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community,” President Obama said about the crisis in Iraq on Thursday, confirming that the United States won’t “rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.”
The President’s declaration today was a change of tone for Democrats and the White House in recent days. A New York Times report alleged that Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki had requested air strike aid from the United States to combat ISIS, but that request had been denied. While the White House apparently denied the request, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that there actually is a U.S. drone presence over Iraq– the United States, they allege, has been flying surveillance drones over Iraq for the past year.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged the Iraqi government to “step up to the plate” and handle the situation themselves, though proposing the United States could offer “some security assistance” to the country. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, deemed the outbreak of fighting in Iraq simply “not our responsibility.”
The President’s statements follow a particularly strenuous week for the Iraqi government, in which a number of large cities in the nation– including Mosul, Tikrit, and Kirkuk. In these towns, ISIS jihadists overtook the Iraqi military and the government is believed to have no more of a law enforcement presence. The resulting chaos has led to a mass exodus of Iraqi citizens and foreigners are believed particularly vulnerable to attack.
In Mosul, ISIS jihadists captured the Turkish embassy and are currently holding the staff of the office hostage. It is believed that 49 Turkish have been captured in the raid. The Turkish foreign ministry has responded to the development with strong language, promising swift retaliation should any Turkish citizens be harmed. “All those involved should know that if our citizens are harmed in any way, they will be the subject of harsh reprisals,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated Wednesday.
The capture of Turkish consulate employees in Mosul has prompted concern for the safety of American citizens working at the United States embassy in Baghdad. Should ISIS jihadists enter the city, the embassy would be a prime target of attack, and many in the United States, including Senator Lindsey Graham, are calling for a full evacuation. Fox News is reporting that an evacuation is a “distinct possibility” as the situation develops.
Outside observers have questioned whether the Obama administration’s withdrawal from Iraq allowed for the possibility of ISIS attackers to stage such a coordinated conquest against the Iraqi government. In Afghanistan, the situation has become the topic of presidential election chatter. Frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah remarked Thursday that the situation shows the need for a “responsible” withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as Iraq. In response to questions regarding the possibility of the United States retreating fully from Afghanistan– the “zero option”– Abdullah noted that he “would emphasize is that hopefully ‘zero option’ will not mean zero cooperation.”