John Podesta's Think Tank: Prepare to Bomb Iraqi Insurgents

Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 12:23 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A Washington think tank with close ties to the White House is urging President Barack Obama to prepare for airstrikes on jihadist terrorists in Iraq.

A report from the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) said that the United States should draw up plans for "limited counterterrorism operations against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), including possible airstrikes."

According to The Daily Beast, the organization is one of several policy consulting groups that Obama administration officials have contacted recently for their views on how to handle the violent insurgency of the al-Qaida-inspired ISIS.

The CAP report could likely have a strong influence over President Barack Obama’s decisions on the Iraqi crisis, partially due to the fact that its founder, John Podesta, is one of the president’s leading advisers.

Several former Obama administration officials are also associated with CAP, including Neera Tanden, a former top White House and campaign adviser; Vikram Singh, a former State Department and Pentagon official; and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

Obama has been weighing plans to bomb the Sunni fighters who have taken over vast swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria and are now closing in on Shiite-controlled Baghdad.

The CAP report detailed the reasons Obama should seriously consider the option of bombing the terror group while setting "strict limits on the American use of force inside Iraq."

"Quite clearly this blitzkrieg by ISIS should be a wake-up call for the Iraqi government, for the region, and for U.S. policy," CAP senior fellow Brian Katulis, one of the report’s authors, told the Beast.

"The administration is very judiciously weighing a range of options in a dynamic situation. This is largely our own analysis. We tried to strike the right balance."

Katulis, however, warned that airstrikes should only be employed to reduce the firepower of ISIS, while diplomatic and political measures were needed in the long run to solve the sectarian war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the war-torn country.

"The nature of the strikes shouldn’t be broad and open-ended, it should be targeted, precise, and principled," he said. "There is no win or lose in this type of conflict. The focus should be to degrade the capacity of ISIS and other groups that threaten the Iraqi state and U.S. national security."

But the Beast noted that the government could be wary of heeding CAP’s advice because the think tank had previously recommended as far back as 2005 that the United States pull all of its troops out of Iraq, which Republicans claim has resulted in the current insurgency.

"The withdrawal of U.S. combat troops was necessary to create an incentive for Iraqis to take control of their own affairs: Iraq had become dependent on an endless supply of American ground troops for its security," the CAP report said.

"The failure of Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to build an inclusive political system has enabled the current startling advances of militants across Iraq led by ISIS."

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