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President Obama on Iraq

Jun 19, 2014|

Obama says he'll send 300 advisers to Iraq.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

CBS news special report a presidential statement on Iraq. I'm Dan -- we're about to hear President Obama from the White House briefing room. Correspondent Peter -- you're on the scene awaiting -- and President Obama is about to speak right now. I just met -- my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq. We've been meeting regularly to review. The situation since I -- a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria made advances inside of Iraq. As I said last week. IS IO poses a threat to the Iraqi People. To the region and to US interests so today I want to provide you an update on how we're just responding to situation. First we are working to secure embassy in personnel operating inside of Iraq. As president I have no greater priority. Then the safety of our men and women serving overseas so I've taken some steps or relocate some of our. Embassy personnel and we've sent reinforcements to better secure our facilities. Second. At my direction we have significantly increased our intelligence. Surveillance and reconnaissance assets so we've got a better picture of what's taking place. Inside of Iraq. And this will give us a greater understanding -- what I was I was doing where it's located and how we might support efforts to counter. This threat. Third the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi Security Forces. We're prepared to create joint operations centers in Baghdad and Northern Iraq to share intelligence. And -- planning to confront. The terrorist threat of ISI -- Through our new counterterrorism partnership -- were prepared to work with congress to provide additional equipment. We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy and we're prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors to 300. To assess how we can best train advise and support Iraqi security security forces going forward. American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq. But we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists. Who threaten the Iraqi People the region and American interests as well. Fourth in recent days we've. Position that additional US military assets in the region. Because of our increased intelligence resources were developing more information about potential targets associated with the ISI don't. And going forward we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action. If and when we determined that the situation on the ground requires. If we do I will consult closely with congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region. I want to emphasize though that the best and most effective response to a threat like IS IL. Well ultimately involves partnerships where local forces like Iraqis. Take -- Finally. The United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with the Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq. In my direction secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe where he'll be able to consult with our allies and partners. And just as all Iraqis neighbors Muster were respect Iraq's territorial integrity. All of Iraq's neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists. -- -- Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future. Shia Sunni. Kurds. All Iraqis. Must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations. Through the political process rather than through violence. National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq's different communities. Now that the results of Iraq's recent election has been certified. A new parliament should convene as soon as possible. The formation of -- new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government. The represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis. Now it's not the place for the United States to choose Iraq's leaders. It is clear though that only leaders that can govern -- an inclusive agenda for going to be able to truly bring -- Iraqi People together and help them through this crisis. Meanwhile the United States will not pursue military options to support once -- inside a rocket at the expense of another. There's no military solution inside of Iraq. Certainly not one bit is led by the United States but there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process. A more capable Iraqi security force and counterterrorism efforts that tonight groups like IS IL a safe haven. Closing in recent days of reminded us of the deep scars left by America's war in Iraq. Alongside the loss of nearly 4500. American patriots. Many veterans carry rewards of that war and world for the rest of their lives. -- here at home Iraq's sparked vigorous debates and intense emotions in the past and we've seen some of those debates resurface. But what's clear from last decade it is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take. Action brought. Particularly -- military action. The most important question we should all be asking. Issue there. That we have to keep front and center issue that I keep on concern is what is in the national security interest of the United States of America. As commander in chief. That's what I stay focused on. As Americans that's what all of us should be focused on -- going forward we will continue to. Consult closely with congress we will keep the American people informed. We will remain vigilant and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the security. Of the United States and the safety of the American people. So that I'm gonna take couple questions. I'll start what. Colleen McCain Nelson of Wall Street tour. You have little confidence. Prime -- -- at at this point pins near. Eight can mount he bring political stability. As I said it's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders part of what are patriots fought for. During many years in Iraq was. The right. And the opportunity for Iraqis to determine. Their own destiny choose their own leaders. But I don't think it is there's any secret that right now at least. There is. Deep divisions between Sunni Shia and Kurdish leaders. And as long as those deep divisions. Continue or worsen it's going to be very hard. For an Iraqi central government to directive Iraqi military to deal with the useless. And so we've consulted with prime minister Maliki and we've said that to him privately. We've said it publicly that. Whether he is prime minister or. Any other leader. Aspires to lead. The country that it has to be an agenda which Sunni -- -- All feel that they have the opportunity to advance their interest through the political process and we've seen over the last two years. Actually dating back to. 20082009. But I think worse over the last two years. The sense. Among Sunnis that. Very interest we're about being sort of bad. Legislation that have been promised. Around for example -- verification had been stalled. I think that you hear similar complaints. That. The government in Baghdad has not sufficiently reached out. To some of the tribes and I've been able to bring them in to a process. That. You know gives them a sense of being part of I unity government or. A single nation state and that has to be worked through part of the reason why we saw. Better equipped. Iraqi Security Forces were larger numbers. Not be able to hold contested territory. Against ISI -- Probably reflects. That lack of it's a sense of commitment on the part of Sunni communities. Two. Go to war with Baghdad and that has to be -- we're gonna get to get through this crisis. -- -- It was prudent to America's new business decision and -- making today as -- preview of coming to try. That's the number of advisors -- your plan to send me being just the beginning of it comes on the ground scenario down the road. Why is Iraq's civil war and national security interest of the United States are you concerned about the potential for mission -- I think we always have to guard against mission -- so let me repeat. What I said in the past. American. Combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have. The ability to simply solve this problem. By. Sending and tens of thousands of troops. And committing. The kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq ultimately this is something that is gonna have to be sold by the Iraqis. It is in our national security interests not to see. An all out civil war inside of Iraq. Not just for humanitarian reasons but because that ultimately can be just -- destabilizing throughout the region and in addition to. Having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting. Obviously. Issues like energy. And then global energy markets continues to be important. We also have an interest in making sure that we don't have a safe haven. That continues to grow. For IS IO and other extremist jihadist groups who. Could use that as a base of operations for planning and targeted. Ourselves our personnel overseas. And eventually the homeland. And you know if they accumulate. More money. They accumulate. More ammunition. More military capability. Larger numbers. That poses grave dangers not just allies bars like Jordan which is very close by. But it also poses. You know great danger potentially true. Europe and ultimately the United States we have already seen inside of Syria. That or groups like ISI know that right now. Are fighting -- other extremist groups or. And Asad regime it was a non responsive to. It's Sunni majority there. That that has attracted more and more. Jihad us or would be jihadist some of them from Europe they then start. Traveling back to Europe and and that over time can I created copper. Terroristic group. It could harm so. We have. Humanitarian interest in preventing bloodshed. We have strategic interest in stability in the region we have counterterrorism interest almost have to be addressed the the initial. Effort for us to get situation awareness through. Be the reconnaissance and surveillance. That we've already done coupled aware of its some. Some are best people on the ground. Doing assessments. Exactly what the situation is starting by the way where the perimeter around Baghdad and making sure that that's not overrun. That's a good investment for us to make but that does not put that is not. Foreshadow. A larger commitment of troops to actually fight in Iraq. That would not be. Effective. In meeting the core interest that we have just hear what you wish you have left residual force in Iraq and cracks. About that -- -- point. Want to remind there wasn't a decision made by -- -- decision made by the Iraqi Government. We offered. A modest residual force to help continue to train. And advise. Iraqi Security Forces. We have a core requirement which we require in any. Situation or rear -- us troops overseas matters is that they are provided immunity at the in the east since they are being invited by. The sovereign government there -- so that if for example they end up acting in self defense if they are attacked. And find themselves in and the toughest situation. That they are not somehow -- before. A foreign court. That's a core requirement that we have for US troop presence anyway. The Iraqi Government. And for mr. Maliki. Declined to provide us that a -- and so. I think it is important go to recognize that this fight. That decision. That we have continued to. Provide them we're very intensive. Advice and support and it continued throughout this process over the last five years. To not only. Offer them our assistance. Militarily. But we've also continue to urge. The kinds of political compromises. That. We think. Are ultimately necessary in order for them to have a function multi. -- secretary and democracy. Inside the country. -- -- -- -- -- Expansion of the Syria war. Change your mind about the type of weapons and training. Get the opposition there is never content -- experience -- area we apartments aren't consistent and significant way. You know. That assessment about the dangers of what it was evident in Syria have existed. Since we've -- Since the very beginning of the Syrian civil war the question has never been whether we thought this was a serious problems. The question has always been. Is her the capacity of moderate opposition. On the ground. To absorb and counteract. Extremists. That -- might have been pouring them as well -- -- him. Supported by Iran and Russia that outmanned them and was -- And so. We have. Consistently. Provided that opposition would support. Oftentimes the challenge is. If you have former farmers. -- teachers. Four. Pharmacists. Who. Now are. Taking up. Opposition against. A battle are emerging. With support from external actors and have a lot at stake how quickly can you get them trained. How effective are you able to mobilize. And you know that continues to be a challenge and even before. The situation that we saw what -- -- going into. Iraq we had already. Tried to maximize. What we could do to support not moderate opposition. That not only can. Counteract the brutality of Assad. But also. Can make sure that. In the minds of Sony's. They don't think they're their only alternative is either. Mr. aside or. Extremist groups like -- or -- -- I think that -- the key. To both Syria and Iraq. Is going to be a combination of what happens inside the country working with us. Moderate Syrian. Opposition working where. An Iraqi Government that is inclusive. And thus laying down -- More effective counterterrorism platform. That. Gets all the countries in the region. Pulling in the same direction. And I alluded to this in the West Point speech this is. Talked about it today -- respect to the counterterrorism partnership fund. There's going to be a long term problem in this region. In which. We have to build. And and and partner we're countries that are committed to. Our interests our values. And and at the same time. We have immediate problems with terrorist organizations -- maybe advances. And rather than try to play whack them -- wherever these. Terrorist organizations may pop up what we have to do is to be able to build effective partnerships. Make sure that they have capacity. Some of the assets that have been. Devoted solely to Afghanistan over the last decade. We've got to shift. To make sure that we have coverage in the Middle East and North Africa. You look at a country like Yemen. A very impoverished country. And one that has its own. Sectarian. What ethnic divisions. There as we do have a committed partner in president -- and his government. And we have been able to. Helped to develop their capacities without. Putting large numbers of US troops on the ground. At the same time as we've got. Enough CT where counterterrorism. Capabilities that were able to go after folks that might. Try to hit our embassy or might be trying to export terrorism. Into Europe or the United States and looking at how we can create more of those models. It's going to be part of the solution. In dealing where both Syria and Iraq but it sort of the for us to do that we still need to have. Actual governments on the ground that we can partner with and the we've got some confidence. Are gonna pursue. The political policies of inclusiveness in Yemen for example it. A wide ranging national dialogue that took a long time but help to give people a sense that there is. They gave. A legitimate political outlet for grievances that they may have. -- -- Thank you sir going back to where you see prime minister Al-Maliki. Playing a role at this point you said it's -- time to rise above differences that there's a need for more inclusive government is he unifier and how much clout -- the United States ultimately happen with any of -- -- this morning. Well we still provide them significant assistance. I think they recognize that. Unlike some other players in the region we don't have. Territorial ambitions. In their country. We're not looking to control their assets -- their energy. We want to make sure that were vindicated. The enormous effort and sacrifice that was made by. Our troops. In giving them an opportunity to build a stable. Inclusive society. Can prosper and deliver. For the basic needs and aspirations of the Iraqi People. And at the same time they are a sovereign country. They have their own politics. And what we have. Try to do is to give them our best advice about. How they could solve their political problems. Now that they are in crisis. We are indicating to them that. There's not going to be a simple military solution to this issue. It if you start saying. The various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners. Then. It is almost certain that. Baghdad the central government will not be able to control. -- shots of their own country. The only way to do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders. Both meet at the national level and at the local level who have confidence that. They issue a majority. That the Kurds that all those folks are committed to. A fair and just governance of the country. Right now that doesn't exist there's too much suspicion there's too much mistrust. And that's the good news is that an election took place in which despite. All this mistress despite all this frustration despite all the -- -- You still have millions of Iraqis turn out. In some cases and very dangerous circumstances. You know have -- court that has certified. Those elections and you have a constitutional process. To advance government formation. So far at least. -- the one. Bit of encouraging news we've seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties have said they continue to be committed to. Choosing. A leadership. Any government through the existing constitutional or. So. It what what you're saying I think it is. As as the prospects of civil war. -- Many. Iraqi leaders. Stepping back and saying. What's up -- back in the business let's see if we can resolve this political. But they don't have a lot of time and you have. A group like -- sale that is doing everything it's minicamp to descend the country back with the chaos. And so one of the messages that we have for prime minister Maliki but also for. The speaker of the house and you know the other leadership inside of Iraq is. Get going on this on this government formation. It'll make it a lot easier for them to shape a military strategy. It'll also make your possible for us department. Much more effectively. Then we can power -- -- ministers track is easy unified candy you have rules when. After what we've seen play out over the last couple of weeks trying to play it. I think -- -- -- is -- before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak. Right now they can make a series of decisions regardless of what's happened in the past. Right now as a moment where. The fate of Iraq. Hangs in the balance and the test. For all of them is going to be whether they can overcome. The mistrust. The deep sectarian divisions. In some cases just political opportunism. And say this is bigger than anyone of us and we've got to make sure that we. We do what's right for the Iraqi People. And and that's a challenge that's not something that the United States can do for them. That's not something by the way -- the United States. Armed forces can do for them. We can provide them the space. We can provide them the tools. But ultimately they're gonna have to -- those decisions in the meantime my job is to make sure that. American personnel there are safe. That we are consulting -- via Iraqi Security Forces there were getting. Better. Assessment of what's on the ground. And there were recognizing the dangerous. I have -- over the long term and developing the kinds of comprehensive. It's counterterrorism strategies that we're gonna need to deal -- this issue and that's gunners involved. Some short term. Responses to make sure that. I solution is is not. Obtaining capacity to. To endanger us directly or allies and partners. But it also is gonna require. Some long term strategies as well because part of what we've seen -- respect us style is. Feel that they've they've broader trend that I talked about it Westport. To me. Rather than a single network. A discreet network of terrorists. This fluid. Combination of hardened terrorists. Disaffected. Local leadership. And where there is vacuums their filling it. And creating the potential for. A serious danger for all concerned. -- -- -- -- -- You know our view is that Iran can play a constructive role. If it is helping. To send the same message to. The Iraqi Government to -- Which is. That Iraqi only holds together if it's inclusive. And that if the interest of Sunni Shia Kurd. Are all respected. If Iran is coming in solely as. An armed force on behalf of the Shia and as if it is claimed in that fashion. Than that probably. Worsens. The situation and the prospect. For government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term. When -- -- them. Twelve yards I think that just as Iraq's leaders have to make decisions. I think Iran. Has heard from us we've indicated to them it is important for them to. Avoid. Steps that might. Encourage. The kind of secretary of sports that there might lead to civil war. And you know the the one thing that I think uses. You have to be emphasized we we have deep differences with the Iran across the board on a whole host of issues. Obviously what's happened in Syria. In part is the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side. And -- Iran obviously should consider the fact that if it is. It if it's view. Of the region this solely through sectarian flames. They could find themselves fighting in the whole lot of places that's probably not good for. The running an economy or the Iraqi People over the long term either I suspect -- there folks in Iran recognize them. You know -- Iraq in chaos on the borders is probably not in their interest. But old habits die hard and you know we'll have to see whether. They they can take. What I think. Would be a more promising. Over the next several this. Thank you very much your life. -- Obama walking away from the podium in the White House briefing room you've been listening to live coverage from CBS news. And right there in the briefing room CBS news White House correspondent Peter Mary you've got him a question and there at the end also our colleague Major Garrett. On whether prime minister Maliki of Iraq. Is trustworthy whether we can work with him in major also asked about Iran. -- things are shifting. The president emphasized he's gonna protect Americans increased US intelligence. To keep an eye on the Sunni Muslim forces. That we are calling that our government is calling I sold now Islamic state in Iraq and the -- -- Peter what was your take away. Well I think the president summed up the severity of this crisis stand when he said the feet of Iraq hangs in the balance. He said that when responding to our questions about the political turmoil that's going on let alone the military turmoil in Iraq. Four Americans though I think the big headline is the president is prepared to send you end up to 300. Military advisors. We -- previously thought to have based on what sources were telling us that the number was about. 13 of that the president emphatically said that they will not return to a combat role in Iraq. Of course when you talk about sending military advisors in people of certain Egypt you know what I mean think about Vietnam because that's how the US involvement started there. The president said there will be no mission creep. In this episode. That these troops will be military advisors that they will be advising Dan as we well know it's a very tattered and endangered Iraqi Army. As you say Peter and President Obama said that American forces there in an advisory role can give the Iraqi Government a little space a little rule -- To work out what the president hopes will be a better political picture in Iraq. Where Kurds the Sunnis and Shiites would all feel represented. Without turning to violence. That's CBS news White House correspondent Peter Mayer a lot more coverage from him and others. Coming up throughout the day on our CBS radio stations also on our free app for your Smartphone the app is CBS radio news. For now this has been a CBS news special report President Obama speaking on Iraq. I'm Dan revealed CBS news.