Australians have been told to leave Iraq immediately by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who has described the escalating crisis as deeply disturbing.
Insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken a swathe of mostly Sunni Arab territory in northern Iraq in an offensive that has brought fighting to within 80km of Baghdad.
The worsening crisis prompted Ms Bishop to urge Australians to leave “immediately”.
“The airport in Baghdad is still open. Commercial flights are still operating out of Baghdad,” she told the Ten Network.
“But if Australians must stay in Iraq, they must ensure that their personal circumstances and their security is absolutely safe.”
The Australian embassy in Baghdad would be “very constrained” in the support it could provide, she said.
On Saturday US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf as President Barack Obama considers possible military options, after he ruled out sending troops into Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Houston, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would wait to see how the US responds to the situation before developing an Australian response.
Ms Bishop said the US would take the lead when it came to any military action.
“I didn’t envisage a circumstance where we would be sending in troops,” she said.
“But we certainly stand ready to support the humanitarian crisis should a request be made.”
She defended the 2003 military intervention in the country, which she supported as a member of the Howard Government.
“I thought Saddam Hussein was one of the worst dictators on the planet at that time. His removal was a good thing,” she said.
Greens leader Christine Milne said following the US into Iraq was not going to “fix” the violence in the country.
“We do not want to follow the United States blindly as John Howard did (in 2003),” Senator Milne told ABC Television.
“Clearly it didn’t work last time in Iraq and it won’t work this time.”