The United States has ordered an aircraft carrier into the Gulf in response to the crisis in Iraq. The Pentagon has said the move will allow for more "flexibility" should "military options" be required.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday ordered that the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier be moved into the Gulf.
"The order will provide the commander-in-chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. The carrier is also being accompanied by two other warships - the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun.
"American naval presence in the Arabian Gulf continues to support our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region," he added.
The move comes in response to an offensive by Sunni Islamic militant organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that has overwhelmed a string of Iraqi cities this week, threatening the country's Shiite-led government. The al Qaeda splinter group has captured the northern and central cities of Mosul and Tikrit and threatened to strike the capital Baghdad.
US President Barack Obama on Friday ruled out sending US ground troops but said his national security team was preparing "a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces."
Iran pledges support
In a live address on state television Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed public support for Baghdad.
Tehran was "ready to provide assistance within international law," Rouhani said, adding that the Iraqi government had not yet requested Iran's help.
The Iranian president also said his government would consider cooperation with Washington if the US were to involve itself in the conflict.
"If we see that the United States takes action against terrorist groups in Iraq, then one can think about it," Rouhani said.
"We have said that all countries must unite in combating terrorism. But right now regarding Iraq, we have not seen the Americans [make] a decision yet," he added.
hc/jr (Reuters, AFP)