At the White House Friday, President Obama addressed the growing trouble in Iraq arguing that leaders there need to take responsibility to solve their own nation’s problems.
The danger they face is the terrorist group ISIL who have seized several cities in Iraq as local security forces have been unable or unwilling to fend them off. Obama said that despite assistance from the U.S. equipping the Iraqi government over the last year, they now need “additional support” to defend against these terrorists.
The president said that he has asked his security team to prepare a range of options that do not include sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. Those options, he said, will be reviewed in the days ahead.
In his statement, Obama recognized the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by American troops in the region in order to give the people of Iraq a taste of freedom. But noting that the U.S. can not do this for them again, the president said it’s time for Iraqi’s leaders to step up and “solve their problems:”
We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq’s security forces. And I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
I do want to be clear, though. This is not solely, or even primarily, a military challenge. Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis and opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome, too often, the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there. And that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government, as well as their security forces.
So any action that we make take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action — including any assistance we might provide — won’t succeed.
So this should be a wake-up call. Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together. In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies.
Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process. Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq. And nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos. So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.
On Wednesday, three Iraq veterans, now congressmen, spoke out in the National Journalfrom their unique perspective of having served in the region. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said, “Going out across the desert I remember the feelings that you have, wondering if you’re going to make it out alive. Right now I wonder what that was all about. What was the point of all of that?”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) said, “We have an enemy today that senses weakness, knows how to find it, and then goes after it. I think Iraq maybe thought they could [defend themselves]. This was an opportunity for us to have another ally in the region. I came home from Iraq feeling that we liberated 25 million people.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) said, “I think at this point the administration made a choice to cut and run. When Fallujah fell again, we knew this foreign policy had consequences. Aside from an intervention, which I don’t think is on anybody’s mind, Iraq is going to have defend for itself. At this point we’ll see if the Iraqi security forces are capable.”