President Obama announced this afternoon that he will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help government forces with intelligence as they combat ISIS militants. He was abundantly clear that these troops will not engage in combat: "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again," he said.
Obama also noted that "we have significantly increased our intelligence" regarding ISIS targets, and that military action (like airstrikes) is still an option. He said he "will consult closely with Congress" before making any decisions about military action.
Throughout the press conference, Obama emphasized that Iraqi must solve its own political problems. While plenty of U.S. leaders think Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should step down, the president stopped short of saying so.
"It's not the place for U.S. to choose Iraq's leaders," he said, noting that only a leader who's committed to running an inclusive government will succeed in the country. "Whether [Maliki] is prime minister, or any other leader aspires to lead the country, it has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shia, and Kurd all feel they have an opportunity to advance their interests through the political process."
When pushed to say whether or not Maliki is a unifier, Obama responded, "I think the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak."
In addition to sending military advisers, Obama announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will depart for the Middle East and Europe this weekend to meet with world leaders about stabilizing Iraq.
On the subject of diplomatic cooperation with Iran, Obama allowed that "Iran can play a constructive role if it's helping to send same message we're sending... If Iran is coming in solely as armed force on behalf of Shia... that probably worsens the situation."
[Image via AP]