President Obama addresses the worsening security situation in Iraq
Obama says the the United States will not rule anything out
But a senior administration official says there will be no U.S. "boots on the ground"
NEW: Sen. John McCain says Obama should fire national security staff, call back David Petraeus
President Barack Obama said on Thursday the United States will “not rule anything out” with regard to the situation in Iraq, but that it will need more help.
Obama made the remarks at the White House as the security situation worsens with Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, firmly under the control of the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. officials previously said things there are “extremely urgent” and the United States is looking to see what more support it can provide.
“This is an area that we have been watching with a lot of concern,” Obama said, noting the United States and the international community should extend additional support.
“So my team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them,” Obama said. “I don’t rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter.”
However, a senior administration official followed up by saying the use of American ground forces is not under consideration.
“No boots on the ground. Not being considered,” the official said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN on Thursday that no one is calling for “American troops into Iraq.”
He said Washington has been cooperative and has a responsibility to be proactive in the current fight against militants.
The U.S. government has already provided $15 billion in training, weapons and equipment to the Iraqi government.
Iraq on Wednesday indicated a willingness for U.S. airstrikes. But there has been no indication if that’s under consideration.
Obama also came under pressure over Iraq from foreign policy critics in Congress.
“The President should get rid of his entire national security including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said prior to a classified briefing for Armed Services Committee members.
He said Obama should bring back David Petraeus, the former commander of American forces during a decisive period of the Iraq War, among other Bush-era generals to “turn this whole situation around.”
Although McCain was highly critical of Obama’s handling of Iraq, he did not advocate for military airstrikes.
House Speaker John Boehner declined to take a stance but suggested the Obama administration should have taken action earlier.
“I think what we should do is to provide the equipment and technical assistance that the Iraqis have been asking for,” the Ohio Republican said.
“But it’s not like we haven’t seen this problem coming for over a year, and it’s not like we haven’t seen over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq, now they’ve taken control of Mosul, they’re 100 miles from Baghdad, and what’s the President doing? Taking a nap,” Boehner added.
Another reliable voice against the administration’s foreign policy agenda, Sen. Lindsey Graham, acknowledged that Americans are tired of dealing with conflicts in the Middle East.
“But the people that are moving into Iraq and holding ground in Syria have on their agenda not only to drive us out of the Mideast but hit our homeland,” he said.
Some Democrats, however, urged caution about getting involved in Iraq, vacated by American troops only three years ago.
“I don’t think there’s any appetite in our country for us to become engaged in any more military activity in Iraq,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
“Are we going to refight the war that we just got out of?” she asked.
Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Armed Services Committee, told reporters that all options should be on the table but warned against a hasty response.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, also expressed concern, indicating the outcome could be devastating if militants continue to move forward.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Laura Bernardini and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.