Obama under pressure to respond to Iraq crisis

WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama has not decided how to respond to rampant Sunni militants grabbing swathes of Iraq, but is looking at every option short of sending US combat soldiers back to war.

Officials said Wednesday that Obama had not ruled out any possible courses of action, including air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters.

Signs also emerged of rising US pressure on Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is being blamed in Washington for causing Iraq to splinter after discriminating against the minority Sunni community.

But there were no signs that renewed US military action was imminent in a war Obama had declared at an end in 2011, hoping to cement his political legacy.

“The only thing the president has ruled out is sending troops back into combat in Iraq, but he continues to consider other options,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“Work is being done that will help us see with more clarity what the options available to the president are,” Carney added, when asked to clarify whether Obama had ruled out air strikes.

Secretary of State John Kerry reinforced the message in an interview with NBC television.

“Nothing is off the table. All options are still available to the president,” Kerry said, adding Obama was “very intensely vetting” his plan.

Obama’s other options include a possible drone campaign against ISIL forces, which have seized Iraqi cities — including Tikrit and Mosul — or stepped up assistance and training to Iraqi government forces.