GOP Demands Obama Take Action on ISIS

Image: GOP Demands Obama Take Action on ISIS Rep. Mike Rogers. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Monday, 25 Aug 2014 09:16 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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President Barack Obama returned from his two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard on Sunday night to a rising chorus of demands from Republicans wanting to know what strategy he plans to use for defeating the Islamic State before more American lives are lost to the terrorist group.

Republicans have been demanding answers about the IS situation for some time, but after the president's much-maligned response to the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the questions dominated most of the Sunday morning news programs.

While Obama has been roundly criticized for being on vacation during the Foley murder and the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, many lawmakers commenting Sunday said they didn't really begrudge the president taking some time off.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is from Foley's home state, told CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer  that she does not mind that the president took a vacation with his family, but said he needs to examine the perception he caused when he went golfing the day after he addressed the nation about Foley's killing.

"What I want from him is a strategy to defeat ISIS," Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said of the terrorist group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). "A containment strategy is not going to cut it: we need a strategy to defeat ISIS."

And South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham  told CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley that Obama and lawmakers should be looking at ISIS "as a direct threat to the United States, a threat to the region that cannot be accommodated. The strategy has to meet the threat."

But still, Graham said that he wants a full explanation from Obama if he decides to spread the U.S. action to Syria.

"My concern is that the president's strategy of leading from behind and [having a] light footprint has failed," Graham told Crowley. "He has to realize, as President George W. Bush did, that his strategy is not working. President Bush adjusted his strategy when it was failing, and he brought about a surge that worked. President Obama has to admit to himself, if no one else, that what he's doing is not working."

Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers,  who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, called ISIS a "a very real threat" that is "one plane ticket away from U.S. shores."

"One of the problems is it's gone unabated for nearly two years, and that draws people from Britain to across Europe, even the United States, to go and join the fight," Rogers said on NBC'd "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"They see that as a winning ideology, a winning strategy, and they want to be a part of it," he explained to NBC's Senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing. "And that's what makes it so dangerous."

Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also on "Face the Nation," said that he gets the sense that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey "understand the gravity of the situation," reports The Hill.

However, the onetime vice presidential nominee said that he doesn't necessarily want to hear the president's response to victories such as the retaking of the Mosul Dam, which had been captured by ISIS earlier this month.

"What I want to hear from our commander in chief is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off. To defeat ISIS," Ryan said. "If we don't deal with this threat now thoroughly and convincingly, it's going to come home to roost."

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain also demanded Sunday that Obama expand his airstrike plan to Syria, so that ISIS will not have a base of operation, reports The Hill.

"There is no boundary between Syria and Iraq," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday," telling host Chris Wallace that "one of the key decisions the president is going to have to make is air power in Syria. We cannot give them a base of operations. And we have got to help the Free Syrian Army."

He said Foley's killing would hopefully push the Obama administration to define its strategy not only for Iraq, but other parts of the world.

"This is an administration, which the kindest word I can use is 'feckless,' where they have not outlined a role that the United States has to play. And that is a leadership role," he said. "No more 'leading from behind,' no more 'don't do stupid stuff,'" he added.

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, now a CBS national security analyst, said the ISIS threat is "the most complex terrorism problem that I have ever seen," but "there are no magic bullets," CBS News reports.

"We have to take away their safe haven, their territory. That requires a political solution in Iraq, which is going to require us to continue to press the Iraqis to do the right thing, our Gulf Arab allies to press the Iraqis to do the right thing, Iran to press the Iraqis to do the right thing, and then we need to get a solution in Syria to take that territory away," Morell said. "The other thing we need to do is take the leadership off the battlefield. We need to identify them through intelligence and then either capture or kill them."

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Obama administration has "been watching this group for quite a long time."

The White House has been "assessing its strength and working with partners on the ground, particularly in Syria, the moderate opposition, to help them develop capabilities to go against ISIS ... we are actively looking at what other options we have, what other tools we can use now to try to degrade this terrorist group's capability," Harf said.

Meanwhile, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that should Obama decided to expand the United States' attacks against ISIS into Syria, he should consult with Congress. House here has been a call to expand the United States' efforts against ISIS, and McCaul said that if President Barack Obama is considering that action, his administrations should be in consultation with Congress.

"So far, they have, under the War Powers Act," said McCaul. "Once that period of time expires, we believe it's necessary to come back to Congress to get additional authorities and to update, if you will, the authorized use of military force."

Whatever Obama's strategy is, McCaul said, the United States should not try to act alone when it comes to defeating ISIS, as "we have allies that can bring a lot of pressure."

Meanwhile, the ISIS fight can't be won with Obama's containment plans.

"His administration, thus far, has only dealt with containment," said McCaul. "We need to expand strikes to ultimately defeat ISIS. I would rather eliminate them there than in the United States."

Washington Post correspondent Bob Woodward, appearing on "Fox News Sunday,"  said nobody knows just what Obama plans to do.

"One key point about Obama is he doesn't like war, and he's trying to avoid the next one," said Woodward. "But let's not kid ourselves. There's an inconsistency here. I mean, Hagel and the chairman of the joint chiefs have said — and [John] Kerry, the secretary of state, made it very clear, all options are on the table, and the president has said no boots on the ground."

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