The Iraq Government has requested US airstrikes in order to combat ongoing violence led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Answering questions at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defence subcommittee, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman army general Martin Dempsey confirmed that Iraq has requested US airstrikes against the Sunni insurgents.
"It is in our national security interest to counter ISIL wherever we find them," Dempsey said.
He added that he could recommend military action only ‘once I’m assured we can use it responsibility and effectively’.
"Until we can actually clarify this intelligence picture, the options will continue to be built and developed and refined and the intelligence picture made more accurate, and then the president can make a decision," Dempsey added.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Department of Defense is providing various options to US President Barack Obama, but any US military intervention in Iraq, including airstrikes, would require ‘clear objectives’.
Iraq’s request comes after the ISIL-led terrorist groups continued to capture cities and towns in the northern and western parts of the country over the past week despite fierce resistance from Iraqi security forces, posing a threat of reprisals from Shiites.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that Obama is still assessing the available options, but will not consider any ground forces deployment to Iraq.
Carney, however, declined to confirm whether the president would seek congressional authorisation for air strikes, by unnamed platforms or piloted aircraft.
The Pentagon has already deployed the amphibious transport dock ship, USS Mesa Verde, into the Arabian Gulf, amid the fast-moving rebellion by Sunni insurgents, who have so far believed to have killed hundreds of people.
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, along with US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman army general Martin Dempsey before testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defence subcommittee in Washington DC, US. Photo: courtesy of DoD, by Glenn Fawcett.