The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 18, 2014

Iraq strategy: Obama, Congress leaders meeting

GREENHILL, ALABAMA — WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has shifted his focus away from airstrikes in Iraq as an imminent option for slowing the Islamist insurgency, in part because there are few clear targets the U.S. could hit, officials say.

Obama has made no final decisions and could ultimately approve limited strikes if stronger targets emerge, the officials say. The CIA and other spy agencies are scrambling to close intelligence gaps in the region and track the movements of key figures in the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which seized Mosul, Tikrit and other towns in Iraq as parts of the country's military melted away.

The president summoned top congressional leaders to the White House Wednesday afternoon to discuss the collapsing security situation. The relentless violence marks the greatest threat to Iraq's stability since the U.S. military withdrew at the end of 2011 after more than eight years of war.

Ahead of his meeting at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the U.S. had no business sending troops into the midst of what he called Iraq's civil war.

"It's time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. Taking on Republicans who have blamed the current violence on the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Reid said, "Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough."

Obama has ruled out returning combat troops to Iraq in order to quell the insurgency. However, he has notified Congress that up to 275 armed U.S. forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. interests.

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