The Iraqi government is reportedly massing its troops to launch a counter-attack against Islamists fighting for control of the country’s biggest oil refinery.
Rebels from the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL have made rapid advances in recent days.
Last week, ISIL seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, forcing around 500,000 people to flee their homes.
It has prompted calls within the Baghdad government for foreign intervention. For now the United States says it won’t commit combat troops or sanction air strikes. It will, however, send 300 military advisors to the country – a decision welcomed by many Iraqis.
“It cannot be solved through military force. It has to be solved through diplomatic and political channels. This is our message to Obama,” said one Baghdad resident.
“It’s the American forces’ duty to protect the Iraqi people and its institutions as stipulated in the Strategic Framework Agreement,” said another man.
Prominent Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who led revolts against US forces, has called on his followers to mobilise, and be prepared to even fight again against the Americans.