Iraq has renewed its plea for help and formally asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes in the region to fight off the Sunni Islamist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which attacked the country's largest oil refinery on Wednesday, and has taken over large swathes of northern Iraq over the past few days.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a televised address, reportedly asked for help from the U.S. in the form of air strikes while the White House said President Barack Obama is considering possible courses of action after a discussion with members of Congress, but added that no decisions have been made so far on how the U.S. would respond to Iraq's plea.
"We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants," Maliki said, according to The Guardian, adding that Iraqi forces are constantly fighting off ISIS militants, who have attacked and taken over various parts of the country in the north, and have advanced toward Baghdad.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the media Wednesday, according to CNN: “We had a good discussion. The President basically just briefed us on the situation in Iraq and indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from us for the steps that he might take and indicated he would keep us posted."
According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, "the president hasn't ruled out anything except sending combat troops into Iraq," CNN reported.
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The decision of launching airstrikes has still not been confirmed by Obama but Maliki’s request has launched a debate in Washington where many leaders have called for Maliki's exit while others have criticized Obama's decision to pull out of Iraq and called it premature.
"Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough. American families have had enough" Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader and a Nevada Democrat, said, according to the Associated Press, adding: “It's time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves."
Meanwhile, as fighting continued between ISIS and Iraqi forces outside the Baiji oil refinery, which is the nation's largest and supplies markets both within the country and abroad, an estimate from the Federation of Indian Exports Organizations, or FIEO, estimated Wednesday that oil prices could rise by $15 to $20 a barrel, the Press Trust of India, or PTI, reported.
“If war-like situation in Iraq continues then it may push the oil price up by $ 15-20 per barrel in next couple of months. The crude prices have already touched $ 113 per barrel which may add to an additional $ 4-5 billion on oil imports besides pushing inflation," M. Rafeeque Ahmed, president of FIEO, said according to PTI.