Lawmakers Support ISIS Airstrikes, But Question Obama's Strategy

Image: Lawmakers Support ISIS Airstrikes, But Question Obama's Strategy (Joshua Horton/Handout/EPA/Landov)

Friday, 08 Aug 2014 01:54 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Lawmakers are saying they generally approve of President Barack Obama's decision to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Iraq, but believe his administration should be doing more to contain the threat the sect poses to the region.

"The president’s authorization of airstrikes is appropriate, but like many Americans, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement

While "vital national interests" remained at stake, the White House until now has stayed disengaged from the situation while ISIS took over many of Iraq's major cities, "despite warnings from Iraqi leaders, Congress, and even members of its own administration," Boehner said.

In addition to the airstrikes, Obama "needs long-term strategy — one that defines success as completing our mission, not keeping political promises — and he needs to build the public and congressional support to sustain it," said Boehner.

The speaker, who has often been a political nemesis of Obama's throughout his presidency, even said he would be ready to work with him should he devise such a strategy.

And in a joint statement, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they agree with airstrikes, but do not think they are sufficient to control ISIS.

"We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one," they said. "A policy of containment will not work against ISIS. It is inherently expansionist and must be stopped. The longer we wait to act, the worse this threat will become, as recent events clearly show."

There have only been "half measures" involved in the Iraq situation, McCain and Graham complained, saying Obama does not have a "comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIS."

Such a strategy, said the pair, "should include the provision of military and other assistance to our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian partners who are fighting ISIS."

Further, the airstrike strategy outlined by Obama should go further, said Graham and McCain, and "include U.S. airstrikes against ISIS leaders, forces, and positions both in Iraq and Syria."

The strategy should also include support for Sunni Iraqis resisting ISIS, and should not be "contingent on the formation of a new government in Baghdad," they declared.

"If ever there were a time to re-evaluate our disastrous policy in the Middle East, this is it," said the two senators, slamming Obama for his "hands-off approach," which they say has increased the threats in the Middle East and "now directly threaten the United States."

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said the current crisis is "symptomatic of this administration's willingness to defy the reality that terrorism is metastasizing throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East," reports USA Today.

Continued targeted military airstrikes are needed "wherever these terrorists are training and fighting," said McCaul, and "political reconciliation" is needed between fighting Iraqi factions.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement that he is "encouraged that American forces are providing humanitarian relief to threatened populations, including Christians and other religious minorities in northern Iraq," as ISIS threatens "the security of the United States and our allies in the region as it consolidates its control of territory that can be used as a base from which to launch attacks."

Rubio pointed out that he's been pushing Obama since June on the airstrikes and to provide "additional lethal assistance" and other types of support to the Iraqi government.

Part of that support, said Rubio, should be "direct humanitarian and military assistance to the Kurds, who face a growing military and humanitarian challenge in northern Iraq," as without U.S. action, ISIS will harm "innocent Syrians and Iraqis."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, also said she supports the airstrikes, reports USA Today, but she does not support putting ground troops back in Iraq, as defeating ISIS should be up to Iraq, not the United States.

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