WASHINGTON — Dealing with a pair of crises, President Obama said Monday that he is seeing progress in Iraq and announced that he is dispatching Attorney General Eric Holder to monitor the unrest in a St. Louis suburb.
Hours after being briefed by Holder on the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., Obama again called for calm and said people there should push back on "a small minority" that is undermining peaceful protest by fomenting violence.
"Let's seek to heal rather than to wound each other," Obama said at the White House.
Obama called on people to address "the gulf" that exists between minorities and law enforcement, but must do so with respect for all sides. He said police should re-examine its use of heavy military equipment in dealing with protests, and hopes that use of the National Guard will be limited.
After a day of briefings, Obama also said the U.S. is seeing progress in the Iraq military operation , citing the re-capture of the nation's largest dam near Mosul.
Militant control of that dam, which controls so much of Iraq's water supply, could have been "catasrophic," Obama said.
Obama also praised the help of allies in Iraq, and said the Iraqis continue to make progress on forming a united and inclusive government as it battles the militant group known as ISIL.
"Let's remember ISIL poses a threat to all Iraqis, and to the region," Obama said.
Obama said he could not put a timeline on efforts to subdue ISIL, but said he is on guard against "mission creep" in Iraq. He repeated there would be no American combat boots on the ground in Iraq.
Obama, who began a brief break in his vacation, had White House briefings on both Iraq and Ferguson.
It will come just a few hours after Attorney General Eric Holder and aides briefed Obama on the investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Mo.
Earlier in the day, Obama heard from members of his National Security Council about the ongoing military operation in Iraq. The national security meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room rather than the Situation Room, which is undergoing maintenance and an upgrade.
Obama — who returned to the White House after midnight from his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. — is scheduled to fly back to the island on Tuesday for a vacation that ends Sunday.
The Aug. 9 shooting in Ferguson has triggered protests, including from African Americans who have long criticized treatment by the police.
Early Monday morning, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called out the National Guard to restore order in the community near St. Louis where some of the protests have turned violent. Later, the governor ended a curfew that had been in effect.
In a Thursday statement from Martha's Vineyard, Obama called for "an open and transparent process to see that justice is done" in Ferguson.
"I've asked that the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney on the scene continue to work with local officials to move that process forward," Obama said. "They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what's being done to make sure that happens."
The NSC meeting consisted of an overall update on Iraq, said the White House schedule.
Earlier this month, Obama authorized airstrikes of militants who threaten U.S. personnel and Kurdish citizens in northern Iraq.
On Monday, Iraq forces said they have re-taken control of the nation's largest dam from the militant group known as the Islamic State.
The operation has included humanitarian aid to religious minorities trapped atop a mountain in Iraq. The administration had considered a rescue mission, but determined that most of those trapped had escaped.
The Obama administration is also pushing Iraq to form a national government that includes all three major religious sects, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
On Thursday, Obama said that "we continue to make progress in carrying out our targeted military operations in Iraq."
Obama is scheduled to return to Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday.