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Insurgents Make Gains In Iraq, Obama Considers Options

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President Barack Obama says he's weighing options for countering the insurgency. But he warned Iraqi leaders he won't take military action unless they address the country's political divisions. President Barack Obama says he's weighing options for countering the insurgency. But he warned Iraqi leaders he won't take military action unless they address the country's political divisions.
BAGHDAD (AP) - Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been making additional gains in Iraq -- capturing two towns in an ethnically-mixed province northeast of Baghdad.

And Shiite leaders are calling on Iraqis to defend the country from the Sunni militants who've taken some major cities and other territory. A representative of Iraq's most revered Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq told worshippers in Friday prayers that the country is in "great danger," and that fighting the militants is "everybody's responsibility."

Meanwhile, the U.N's human rights chief is expressing 'extreme alarm" at reprisal killings, citing reports of hundreds of dead and wounded. She says her office is hearing about "summary executions" -- and that militants rounded up and killed Iraqi army soldiers as well as 17 civilians on a single street in Mosul.

Neighboring Iran is signaling its willingness to confront the growing threat. Iran's official news agency says that country's powerful Revolutionary Guard is ready to fight in Iraq against the militant group.

Iran has built close political and economic ties with postwar Iraq.

Meanwhile, President Obama said U.S. combat troops won't be returning to Iraq, but he says he's considering a range of other options for dealing with the violent Islamic insurgency there.

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011 after more than eight years of war.

Obama says Iraq's government must make a sincere effort to address sectarian differences, or else U.S. military help won't succeed in curbing the insurgency there.

He says, "We can't do it for them."

Obama says the risk posed by terrorists in Iraq could eventually pose a threat to U.S. interests, too.

As the insurgents make gains, soldiers and commanders who served in the long Iraq war are struggling to make sense of this week's developments in places they once fought to protect, such as Mosul and Fallujah.
    
The advances have left many U.S. veterans reflecting - with bitterness, frustration and sadness - on the sacrifices of a war that lasted for more than eight years and killed nearly 4,500 Americans and many more Iraqis.
    
Army Col. Barry Johnson is now retired and living in Potlatch, Idaho. He says the losses make the whole war feel like a waste of lives.
    
Marine Sgt. Colin Archipley fought in Fallujah almost a decade ago. He says Iraq's opportunity was squandered, and he isn't sure what else could have been done.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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