Report: White House Cannot Decide on ISIS Threat Level

Image: Report: White House Cannot Decide on ISIS Threat Level (Stringer/Reuters/Landov)

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 10:26 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Obama administration is undecided about the threat level to Americans by the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) and how they should handle it, The Hill reported.

The White House believes there is a notable difference between the threat of a terrorist atrocity on American soil, which the administration feels is unlikely, and an attack on U.S. personnel in Iraq, which the administration says is a clear and present danger.

Officials have added to the confusion by giving different statements at different times on the level of danger from the terror organization, according to The Hill.

Urgent: Do You Approve of Obama's Handling of Foreign Policy? Vote Here

President Barack Obama is mulling over authorizing airstrikes on the jihadists in eastern Syria, where they are based, as well as continuing attacks in northern Iraq.

But airstrikes in Syria, which would mark a major escalation in U.S. military action in the region, would also aid the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the same time the United States would like to see him removed from power.

Last year, Obama received permission from Congress to bomb Assad's forces as they fought back against rebel fighters. But Obama faces obstacles getting congressional backing for airstrikes on the Sunni militants in Syria, The Hill said.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who's close to Obama, issued a convoluted statement on Monday: "I do not believe that our expanded military operations against [ISIS] are covered under existing authorizations from Congress."

But Kaine added that he was "encouraged by reports that indicate administration officials have signaled that seeking congressional authorization for U.S. military action against [ISIS] is being considered."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest added to the problem of declaring a threat level to the United States by saying that the president believes "military might is not the only tool in the tool box here."

Earnest was asked whether Obama agreed with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's statement last week that ISIS was "an imminent threat to every interest we have" and "beyond anything that we've seen."

Earnest responded, "What is true is that there is a serious threat that's posed by" ISIS.

And when he was pressed on whether there was "an imminent threat to America," he replied, "Well, it certainly is an imminent … [threat to] American interests."

Obama initially authorized airstrikes against Islamic State militants because of the danger to U.S. personnel in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, as well as in Baghdad.

Urgent: Do You Approve of Obama's Handling of Foreign Policy? Vote Here

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