A US general has admitted American soldiers could be sent into Iraq on the ground if the air campaign against Islamic State jihadists fails.
President Obama had previously denied on numerous occasions that US ground troops would enter Iraq.
The US is currently carrying out air strikes near Baghdad and says its aim is to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State militants. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have also been pushing back against the militants positions in northern Iraq.
US Army General Martin Dempsey said: “My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward and I believe that will hold true. But if it fails to be true and there are threats to the United States then I will go back and go to the President and make a recommendation that may include US military ground forces.”
The US is leading an international coalition of 30 countries including western and Arab nations who have promised to combat ISIL.
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said: “This will not be an easy or a brief effort. It is complicated. We are at war with ISIL as we are with al-Qaida. But destroying ISIL will require more than military efforts alone. It will require political progress in the region and effective partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
Meanwhile Iraq’s national security adviser has met with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. They discussed strengthening joint cooperation against ISIL, which has seized large areas of both countries.
The US and other Western governments have refused to work with Assad but say they would strike IS in Syria. The Syrian government says this would be an act of aggression.