The CIA and other spy agencies are scrambling to close intelligence gaps as they seek to support possible military or covert action against the leaders of the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group that has seized parts of Iraq.

The lack of clear intelligence appears to have shifted President Barack Obama’s immediate focus away from airstrikes in Iraq because officials said there are few obvious targets. However, officials say no final decisions have been made and suggest Mr Obama could ultimately approve strikes if strong targets do become available.

As the U.S. intensifies its intelligence collection efforts, officials are confronting a diminished spying capacity in the Middle East, where the 2011 departure of U.S. troops and the outbreak of civil war in Syria left large swaths of both countries largely off-limits to American operatives.

Keywords: Iraq crisis

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