President Obama on Thursday said he wasn't ruling out any potential U.S. responses to the escalating violence in Iraq, as insurgents there have captured multiple major cities and are marching towards Baghdad in hopes of launching a full-out civil war in the Middle Eastern country.
“I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foot hold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter,” Obama said from the Oval Office.
But that’s not quite true.
When asked, a senior administration official later clarified that Obama was talking about airstrikes and drone attacks, not putting American boots on the ground in Iraq. The Iraqi government has been pressing the U.S. for military support, but the Obama administration has been reluctant to commit to such actions.
The White House has come under fire as insurgents in Syria have entered Iraq, with militants taking control of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit.
Obama has long championed the end of the Iraq War as his primary foreign policy achievement, and the violence there now threatens to puncture that narrative.
Obama on Thursday said that in the “short term, immediate things that will need to be done militarily — and our national security team is looking at all the options — but this should be also a wake up call from the Iraqi government that there has to be a political component to this.”
Republicans said Obama was partially responsible for the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
“It's not like we haven't seen this problem coming for over a year and it's not like we haven't seen, over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Now they've taken control of Mosul, they're 100 miles from Baghdad, and what's the president doing? Taking a nap.”