Middle East
2:23 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Obama: U.S. to Send 300 "Military Advisers" to Iraq

President Barack Obama answers questions from reporters at the White House.
President Barack Obama answers questions from reporters at the White House.
Credit Screenshot / White House

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is prepared to take targeted military actions in Iraq if they would help fight a growing threat from extremist militants. He also said the U.S. is ready to send as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq.

There are already a handful of the special forces in Iraq that have been there as part of the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. The commandos would not be fighting in direct combat, but could provide intelligence and greater insight into what the Iraqi units need. Other than the special forces, the vast majority of U.S. combat troops would not return to the country that the U.S. occupied for nearly nine years. 

Obama stopped short of calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign. He says it's not the United States' job to choose Iraq's leaders. He said that whomever is prime minister must make sure all sectarian groups feel they can advance their interest through the political process.

"There are certain things that the U.S. could do militarily," said Associated Press White House reporter Josh Lederman on WBUR's On Point. "But in absence of some kind of political solution to the failed leadership of al-Maliki in bringing in the Sunnis and Kurds into the government and making them feel included that military action isn't really going to be that effective."

The New York Times reports on the political movement happening within Iraq:

Alarmed over the Sunni insurgent mayhem convulsing Iraq, the country’s political leaders are actively jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, American and Iraqi officials said Thursday. 

The political leaders have been encouraged by what they see as newfound American support for replacing Mr. Maliki with someone more acceptable to Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, as well as to the Shiite majority.

At the end of his press conference, Obama answered a question about Iran's involvement in this crisis. He said they could play a "constructive" role, but not if they only come in fighting "hot and heavy on one side." He added that it wouldn't be helpful to the Iranian economy if the country got involved in every sectarian conflict.

This report includes information from the Associated Press.