Iraqi civilians flee Mosul
June 13th, 2014
04:38 AM ET

What Are U.S. Options in Iraq?

For better or worse, Iraq and the United States have been attached at the hip for decades.

From the 1991 Gulf War to the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein to subsequent years marred by violence and instability, there's no doubting the deep connection between the two nations. That's largely thanks to policies crafted out of Washington, be they intended to contain or eliminate Hussein or to stabilize and build up the fragile nation that remained in his wake.

So it is no surprise that, with militants overrunning much of Iraq and threatening its capital, people are turning to the United States.

What can it do? What will it do?

President Barack Obama has met with his national security team, which is preparing options for how the United States can make a difference in Iraq. As Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, "I know the President of the United States is prepared to make key decisions in short order."

Among Obama's options:

Option No. 1: Send in American troops

It's happened before.

First there was the Gulf War rout. U.S. troops didn't stay for long after that, but they did hunker down 12 years later. The responsibility that comes with rebuilding a country from over 6,000 miles away was one factor but so was the continued violence.

American troop levels in Iraq peaked at 166,300 in October 2007, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Critics derided the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Among them was Sen. John McCain, who on Thursday reiterated his disgust at that decision and called for the firing of Obama's national security team in part over what's happened in Iraq.

"Could all this have been avoided?" the Arizona Republican said about the current state of Iraq, though he didn't outright call for fresh military action. "And the answer is: Absolutely yes."

The biggest, simplest way to make an impact in Iraq: Send American troops back into the country.

But it won't happen again.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN on Thursday that no one is calling for "American troops into Iraq." And of all options now on the table, it's the only one that the Obama administration has explicitly nixed.

"We are not contemplating ground troops," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday. "I want to be clear about that."

Option No. 2: U.S. airstrikes

Still, while the U.S. military might not have a role fighting on the ground in Iraq, it could have a role over it.

Obama said Thursday that "our national security team is looking at all the options," adding that "I don't rule anything out."

Expanding on the President's comments later in the day, Carney stated that Obama "was responding to the question about requests for airstrikes and would he consider airstrikes."

In the past, Iraqis have been very public about their desire to limit the involvement of the American military. Yet on Wednesday, a U.S. official said the Iraqi government had indicated a willingness for the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes targeting members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other militants.

American air power has proven effective before in campaigns such as Kosovo or Libya.

Yet it's not foolproof.

On Thursday, Carney dodged a question about whether Obama might consult Congress before sending warplanes into Iraq - saying it's too early to give an answer because the President hasn't decided the best course of action yet.

Plus, there are limits and challenges to attacking sites from the air.

For one, there's still a risk of casualties should warplanes be shot down. And secondly, it can be difficult to wipe out an insurgency from above, especially if militants blend into the civilian population.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. William Jones

    HELL NO
    So frikken fed up with this prez, guess obama will pass his own bill, without congress, to bring them over by the boat load, then again he might send our sodiers back in to harms way for ground they bled for once to save his muslims because you no dam well he cares more about them then or boys and girls. Those people could'nt wait for us to leave. This is like Vietnam all over again, take ground with US blood n limbs only to give it back and then do it all over again, Air strikes ,hell yeah, ya only need 2 planes and 2 bombs

    June 14, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  2. Jim Crider

    We need to only PROTECT OUR OWN.Saddam Hussain, at least controlled and kept in check the Civil Factions and tribes. These people will ALWAYS fight among themselves. We will NEVER win in the Middleeast.

    June 14, 2014 at 5:00 am | Reply
  3. Denechek

    Let them have their own growing pains. If the violence reaches us, then turn Iraq into a parking lot.

    June 14, 2014 at 3:14 am | Reply
  4. Denechek

    I think we should let them learn their own lessons. If we spent billions on them already and they still are not willing to protect their freedom let them die for it. We have always been ready to die for our freedom, and that's part of what made us the greatest nation on the Earth. It's natural for us to be disappointed when others don't live up to the same standards as us, but you cannot instill courage and integrity in people, no matter how much you spend. We should leave them alone, yet bomb them with impunity.

    June 14, 2014 at 3:13 am | Reply
  5. hanan

    usa has to stop beening nosiy no body want amireca to get involved to any country leave us alone there is lots of problem in usa

    June 14, 2014 at 12:46 am | Reply
  6. petergay

    NO! The U.S.A. should not get involved in this mess. Call George W. Bush and ask him to take care of his mess!!!

    June 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  7. Amal

    All the problems that Iraq lives in now caused by the american interfering ... isn't enough ?!!!

    June 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  8. Brad

    We have to because they need help and we did signe the agreement 2 years ago

    June 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  9. Name*michael f.

    Definitely not one soldier, not even even a service dog.

    June 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  10. John

    If by "we" you mean american's, then yes. Leave Canada out of this one. Maybe you have some allies in europe that can help you.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  11. Linda

    Do we ever learn anything from history...not even recent history?
    No! No! No!

    June 13, 2014 at 11:53 am | Reply
  12. michealjackson706

    You are saying and Questioning ,that US should involve in it or not,US is already involved in it,and is Funding abu al baghdadi
    ,The Condition of Iraq is just because of US INVOLVEMENT,his greediness For OIL

    June 13, 2014 at 11:00 am | Reply
  13. Ninoska

    the Iraq war ( I should say Bush war) already cost 1 trillion to the American taxpayers many who still has not health insurance....War only benefits the rich who wants the contracts assigned by the defense department.. we should have never been there in the first place... Sadam Hussein was the only one who could control those lunatics.. those countries don't believe in democracy. They only want their group to control the mayority whether they are sunnies or shiites or kurds and it is not our business when we have so many problems inside the US

    June 13, 2014 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • Jim Crider

      I agree 100%

      June 14, 2014 at 5:02 am | Reply
  14. Walter Mesquira

    Don't go USA. Is not our problem

    June 13, 2014 at 9:17 am | Reply
  15. Shrek

    War is not the answer. Is the only option!

    June 13, 2014 at 7:33 am | Reply
  16. norma

    No Way...Not Again...No More Please,No More...

    June 13, 2014 at 6:51 am | Reply

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