WASHINGTON (WSJ) —President Barack Obama decided against immediate air strikes on marauding Sunni extremists in Iraq, opting instead to pursue strategies such as providing intelligence to the Iraqi military, addressing the country’s political divisions and seeking support from regional allies.
Mr. Obama will convene a White House meeting Wednesday with Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate to brief them on what officials call this new comprehensive approach.
The president wants to avoid airstrikes for now in part because U.S. military officials lack sufficient information to hit targets that would shift momentum on the battlefield. Officials say their approach also would help address underlying causes of the Sunni uprising and the collapse of Iraq’s military forces.
“What the president is focused on is a comprehensive strategy, not just a quick military response,” a senior administration official said. “While there may potentially be a military component to it, it’s a much broader effort.”
Mr. Obama ultimately may decide not to order air attacks, senior U.S. officials said, bucking what for days appeared to be the leading U.S. option to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, the terror group that has seized a large swath of Iraq’s north and west. U.S. strikes are still actively under discussion, but the officials cautioned Tuesday that they don’t expect Mr. Obama to put military action back on the table quickly, and said he may announce steps in a broader U.S. response over time.