Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama said Thursday the U.S. is looking at all options to help Iraq battle jihadists who seized two major cities.
“I don’t rule out anything,” Obama said. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.”
The president was referring to insurgents or fighters of the al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), who have taken over Mosul and Tikrit the past two days and threatened to seize the capital Baghdad next. The Sunni ISIL wants to oust Shiites from power in Iraq and establish an Islamic caliphate in the areas they control, including parts of Syria.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested U.S. airstrikes on ISIL forces after members of the Senate Armed Services Committee received a confidential briefing from Department of Defense’s Iraq and Middle East experts.
“There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power,” Graham said, according to Stars and Stripes.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would consider supporting airstrikes to repel the forces as one option. At the same time, McCain called on Obama to fire his national security team and replace Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for their failure in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reportedly appealed to the Obama administration for airstrikes against the Sunni militants as Iraqi forces launched air strikes on Mosul and Tikrit targeting the insurgents.
Meanwhile, American defense contractors working with the Iraqi military were being evacuated to safer areas, according to state department spokesperson Jen Psaki. Several hundred evacuees were transferred from Balad air base to Baghdad.