Weeks after setting out a new policy of US military restraint overseas, President Barack Obama is being forced to reconsider his doctrine in the light of worsening sectarian violence in Iraq.
Washington observers and lawmakers are calling on the White House to intervene, even as it quickly ruled out the possibility of sending combat troops back to Iraq. The United States officially ended military operations in the country in 2011, concluding the second Iraq war that began in 2003.
Since the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militant group began its surge last week, hawkish voices have been growing, urging military intervention in Iraq.
Both Mr Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in Iraq during the second Iraq war, and former British prime minister Tony Blair have said that the West needs to consider military options to stabilise the situation.
Yet, there is also a recognition among many analysts that the situation is tricky, with no good options.
Should the US stand on the sidelines, it would draw unflattering comparisons to its weak response to the Syrian civil war and the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Get too involved in Iraq, and it may reinforce the suspicion in Asia that the US commitment to its Asia rebalance is in name only.
Thus far, the White House has done nothing beyond beefing up the security of its embassy in Iraq, the largest US embassy in the world. Mr Obama has said he is leaving all options open except deploying combat troops.
At the heart of the problem, say observers, is that US foreign policy does not appear to be standing on very solid ground.