Obama is weighing whether to approve U.S. airstrikes to slow insurgents who have seized a growing number of Iraqi cities and have their sights set on Baghdad.
The president on Friday said that the Iraqi government must present a political solution to the violent uprisings before the U.S. commits to any type of military response. He has ruled out the prospect of troops on the ground in Iraq, but the commander in chief has an array of other responses to consider.
Obama, who built his political Image on his opposition to the Iraq War, is wary of getting the U.S. too entangled in a conflict with no obvious solution. And with little public appetite for military action in Iraq, the president sees little political incentive to act quickly.
However, critics say his administration is partially responsible for the strife just outside Baghdad because it created a vacuum for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to fill. And they predict similar fallout in Afghanistan, where Obama is attempting to remove most U.S. troops after the longest war in American history.
The White House has trumpeted the end of the Iraq War as one of the president's primary accomplishments. But the threat of civil war in both Syria and Iraq has undermined the president's vision for how to curtail violence in the Middle East.
And on a broader level, Obama’s foreign headaches have created doubts about his management skills.
The White House has put no timetable on the president’s decision.
Senior administration officials have confirmed that unmanned aircraft are now gathering intelligence on potential targets in Iraq. And the Pentagon has moved warships into the Persian Gulf to be ready for a possible strike.
As much of Washington focuses on Iraq, the president will also attempt to move forward on his domestic agenda.
The president Wednesday will host the White House Maker Faire, an event that will highlight youth inventors and entrepreneurs, and on Thursday will award the Medal of Honor to Cpl. William Carpenter.
And Obama Friday meets with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the White House.
The president spent the weekend in Palm Springs, Calif. after delivering the commencement address at the University of California, Irvine.