If Iraq falls to extremists threatening to topple its government, it will pose a "grave threat" to U.S. national security, according to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who urged the president to provide immediate assistance to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The Kentucky Republican blames the situation in Iraq on President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw troops without leaving peacekeeping forces, reports The Hill
. And if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is an offshoot of al-Qaida takes over Iraq, it will mean that all gains made in recent years will be lost.
He did not call for the redeployment of American ground troops, but said Iraqi security forces need the United States' help.
"The Iraqi security forces are now less capable than when the president withdrew the entirety of our force without successfully negotiating a remaining U.S. presence capable of preserving our gains and mentoring our partners," he said in a statement on Friday.
Those gains, made by the United States and its allies to move Iraq from being controlled by a dictatorship into a democracy, cost more than 4,000 American lives, along with trillions of dollars, which could be lost if the Sunni extremists take over the country.
Last month, al-Maliki asked the United States for airstrikes, but Obama rejected his request. But on Friday, reports The New York Times
, he indicated some assistance is being considered.
“This poses a danger to Iraq and its people and, given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well,” said Obama of the offensive. “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options.”
But while McConnell and others want Obama to take immediate action, the president warned Friday that any action will take time to happen.
"People should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there. We want to make sure that we’ve gathered all the intelligence that’s necessary so that if in fact I do direct and order any actions there, that they’re targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect."
McConnell's plea for Obama to take action spurred a reaction from his Democratic opponent in this fall's mid-term election, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who said Friday she opposes sending combat forces to Iraq.
"This is a very dangerous and concerning development in Iraq, and I will continue to monitor reports and evaluate new information as it develops in the coming days,” she said.
"Ultimately, this fight is up to the people of Iraq. I would not support the United States reintroducing troops in Iraq. The United States should continue to play a supportive role by providing useful intelligence," she said.
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