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Will get involved in Iraq only if they have a political plan: Obama

Washington: President Barack Obama has said that US will not indulge in a military action against the Islamist militant group ISIL in Iraq in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqi government.

Barack Obama said US will not intervene in Iraq without a political plan there. AP

Barack Obama said US will not intervene in Iraq without a political plan there. AP

"I want to make sure that everybody understands this message - the US is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they're prepared to work together," Obama told reporters at the White House.

"We're not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we're there, we're keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we're not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country," Obama said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has met with senior military leaders over the last 36 hours to discuss events on the ground, and to prepare options for the President's consideration.

"I won't detail those options, but I can tell you they cover a wide range of military capabilities and will be designed to help break the momentum of ISIL's progress and bolster Iraqi security forces.

"But clearly, any decision to employ these options rests solely with the commander in chief," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

For several months now, the Pentagon has been working in close coordination with State Department to augment the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.

"Our focus has been on increasing their capacity to defend themselves and their people and remain responsible for taking on the threats over the long term," he said.

"In March, the US delivered a hundred Hellfire missiles on an expedited timetable, bringing the total to some 300. That's in addition to millions of rounds of small-arms fire, tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets.

"Late last year, US delivered additional armed scout helicopters to the Iraqi armed forces, and a few weeks ago we notified Congress of an additional USD1 billion in foreign military sales," he added.

"The (US Defence) Secretary believes it is imperative that Iraq and its neighbours have strong security forces to meet evolving threats from the violence that's spilling over certainly from Syria's borders. We are fully committed to that effort," Kirby told reporters.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, however, said that Obama has not made any decision yet concerning military assistance to Iraq.

"He (Obama) has not made a decision yet in terms of how to take short-term steps to help the Iraqis and assist in this fight.

"What we've said is that anything we do needs to absolutely be coupled with a commitment from the Iraqi Government and its leaders to pull their country together, to step up to the plate and to stop doing some of the things that have led in part to vulnerabilities within the Iraqi Government and the security forces," she said.

The US, she said, has increased its surveillance capabilities and sharing of intelligence with the Iraqis.

"All of this builds into this picture that the President mentioned, we need to take a little time to make the decision, to develop options, and to get as much intelligence and information as possible if we decide to take action," she said.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham agreed with Obama and said "We have long said the same. However, the recent advance of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters has created a more urgent security problem: the grave risk of renewed sectarian conflict in Iraq and the expansion of what is already the largest terrorist safe haven in history."

"This is not just Iraq's problem. It is also a growing threat to the US and our partners and allies. Therefore, while we continue to urge Iraqi leaders to unify and reconcile, our most immediate priority must be to reverse the advance of a terrorist force that is more radical, violent, and ambitious than al-Qaeda," the senators said.

They advocated use of air strikes by the US to deal with situation in Iraq.

"We see no way to achieve this goal without US air strikes, among other military and intelligence actions and additional support for our Iraqi partners.

"A delayed or weak response from the United States will only deepen the Iraqi government's dependence on Iran, and destroy the prospects of national reconciliation," they said.

PTI