| WASHINGTON, June 13
WASHINGTON, June 13 When Barack Obama ran for
president in 2008, he built his reputation as an anti-war
candidate by disparaging U.S. involvement in Iraq, adamantly
insisting: "It's time to end this war."
Now, with Iraq's U.S.-backed government under its most
serious threat since President Obama pulled out the last U.S.
troops in 2011, he is being forced to consider what had
previously seemed unthinkable - resorting to military force
His challenge is to use military power carefully to help
besieged Iraqis face down an Islamist insurgency without getting
the United States drawn into an intractable conflict that would
test war-weary Americans' patience.
With that in mind, Obama issued a calibrated message on the
White House South Lawn on Friday: he has a variety of options,
but none involving U.S. combat forces on the ground, and he will
take several days to consider them.
"I think we should look at the situation carefully," Obama
Obama's objective is to use the promise of U.S. military
force, such as airstrikes, as an enticement to Baghdad to take
urgent steps to be more inclusive and stop the country from
breaking up into sectarian enclaves.
"You don't shy away from using force and when you do, you
use it effectively with a plan, but you don't overreach and you
don't use it as a first resort," was how one senior
administration official described White House thinking.
OBAMA'S DELIBERATIVE APPROACH
The president's deliberate approach, however, may not tamp
down the chorus of complaints from domestic critics over what
they say is Obama's tentative approach to dealing with crises
"It's a luxury we don't have. Events are unfolding too
rapidly," Republican Senator John McCain told Reuters.
Senior U.S. officials insist Obama will not be badgered into
a hasty decision by congressional critics, like House Speaker
John Boehner, who accused him of "taking a nap" while chaos
rages in Iraq.
Some of those finding fault now are the same people who
consistently accuse Obama of not doing enough in Syria, where
Obama condemned the autocratic president, Bashar al-Assad, but
backed away from an earlier threat of airstrikes.
Senior officials now see three challenges for Obama in Iraq.
The first is to take short-term action to stop the
well-armed forces of the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL) from overrunning Iraq and securing a base from
which to launch external attacks, including on American targets.
This fits the principle he laid out in a speech at West
Point last month, that the United States will use military force
unilaterally if necessary "when our people are threatened, when
our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is
A medium-term goal is to ensure Iraq has a plan to break
down its sectarian divisions and unite the country, riven by
strife between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim factions.
A longer-term goal is to persuade Iraq's allies to buy into
a process to help hold the country together, and to persuade
Congress to approve a $5 billion counter-terrorism fund to help
Iraq and other countries deal with the extremist threat over the
(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by G Crosse and David