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Obama on Iraq Turmoil: 'I Don't Rule Out Anything'

President Barack Obama said Thursday "I don't rule out anything" when it comes to a U.S. response to worsening violence in Iraq.
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President Barack Obama said Thursday "I don;t rule out anything" when it comes to a U.S. response to worsening violence in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters briefly after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the White House, Obama said "my national security team is looking at all the options" available in stemming an advance by Islamic extremists in the north and west of the country.

"This is an area we've been watching with a lot of concern, not just over the last days but the last several months," Obama said, adding that his administration has "been in close consultation with the Iraqi government to try to address problems they have.

"What we've seen indicates Iraq's going to need more help, from us and from the international community."

Iraq has asked the U.S. for air assistance in tempering the militant uprising, U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News on Wednesday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama was speaking specifically about air strikes.

"We are not contemplating ground troops. I want to be clear about that," Carney said.

The president said Thursday, "We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in Iraq or Syria."

He added that regardless of U.S. or international intervention in the chaos, the responsibility is on Iraqis to work together despite factional divides.

"The politics of Shi'a and Sunni inside of Iraq, as well as the Kurds, either are going to be a help or a hindrance. I haven't seen kind of trust develop inside of Iraq" required to help.

"This should be a wake-up call to the Iraqi government that there has to be a political component to this ... and that requires concessions on part of Shi'a and Sunni we haven't seen so far."

— Patrick Garrity and M. Alex Johnson