Obama Says the U.S. Will Help Iraq as Militants Take Control, but ‘We Can’t Do It for Them’

President Barack Obama said the United States will do its part to help Iraq as militants seize control of key cities, but won’t be sending in any troops and that ultimately “it’s up to the Iraqis” to resolve the crisis.

President Barack Obama talks about his administration’s response to a growing insurgency foothold in Iraq, Friday, June 13, 2014, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“We can’t do it for them,” Obama said Friday.

The Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has taken control of large swaths of Iraq with the ambition of creating an Islamic state across the Iraq-Syria border.

“This poses a danger to Iraq and its people and, given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests,” Obama said.

Obama said sending U.S. troops back into combat is not an option, but he’s asking his national security team to “prepare a range of other options” to assist Iraq’s security forces.

“Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences and promote stability and account for the legitimate interest of all of Iraq’s communities and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force,” Obama said.

Some of the chaos has been blamed on the lack of a coalition among the Shiite majority government and its treatment of Sunnis and Kurds in the country. ISIL is a Sunni militant group.

“This should be a wake-up call,” Obama said. “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions.”

Reports that Iraqi military troops have been abandoning their posts are particularly upsetting, Obama said, considering the amount of resources the U.S. has devoted to building up the Iraqi security forces.

“The fact that they are not willing to stand and fight and defend their posts against admittedly hardened terrorists but not terrorists who are overwhelming in numbers, indicates that there’s a problem with morale,” Obama said. “There’s a problem in terms of commitment, and ultimately that’s rooted in the political problems that have plagued the country for a very long time.”