Baghdad asked Washington today to carry out air strikes on militants who attacked Iraq's main oil refinery and seized more territory in the north, amid warnings the country's future was at stake.
The appeal for strikes -- which the White House said US President Barack Obama has not ruled out -- came as fighters, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), were pressing an eight-day offensive, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pledging to face down "terrorism."
While officials touted progress, militants seized three villages in northern Iraq and India said 40 of its nationals were kidnapped in Mosul, the city captured last week by insurgents at the onset of their offensive.
"Iraq has officially asked Washington to help... and to conduct air strikes against terrorist groups," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Saudi Arabia.
However, Zebari said "a military approach will not be enough. We acknowledge the need for drastic political solutions."
The United States spent billions of dollars over several years training and arming Iraqi security forces after disbanding the Sunni-led army following the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Washington has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and sent military personnel to bolster security at its Baghdad embassy, but Obama insists a return to combat in Iraq is not in the cards.
The White House said on Wednesday that the president had not ruled out using drone strikes to target the insurgents.
Iraq, meanwhile, has scrambled to repel the militant offensive, with Maliki firing disgraced security commanders and vowing to "face terrorism and bring down the conspiracy."
"We will teach (militants) a lesson and strike them," he said.