McCain: Obama's 'Disturbing' Moves in Iraq Fall Short

Saturday, 09 Aug 2014 05:18 PM

By Andrea Billups

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President Barack Obama shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the broad-scale threat the U.S. faces against Islamic militants in Iraq and his limited airstrikes are not enough to stop "the richest, most powerful terrorist organization in history," Sen. John McCain tells The New York Times

The Arizona Republican offered his harsh assessment while traveling with a U.S. delegation in Vietnam and spoke out against what he described as the president's tepid engagement as violence continued in Iraq.

McCain called the president's actions "disturbing" as ISIS militants raged, forcing Christians to flee as unrest continued to spread. He said he feared for America as the crisis grew and Obama's engagement remained limited.

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"The stated purpose — stated by the president — is to save American lives, not to stop ISIS, not to change the battlefield, not to stop ISIS from moving equipment farther into Syria to destroy the Free Syrian Army,” McCain told the Times by phone.

"Obviously, the president of the United States does not appreciate this is not just a threat to American troops on the ground or even Iraq or Kurdistan. This is a threat to America."

McCain, who repeatedly has criticized the president's foreign policy skills, called for combat air controllers used to spot targets inside the country appropriate for airstrikes. He told the Times that heavy military equipment should be immediately sent to Erbil and urged airstrikes targeted at territories now controlled by ISIS within Syria.

The president, in his own interview with the Times on Friday pushed back on pressure for deeper engagement noting that the U.S. cannot step in to be Iraq's air force nor its military rescuer.

McCain called for more force, however, dubbing the airstrikes on Friday as 'pin pricks," in an interview with the The Daily Beast. He described them as "meaningless" and "almost worse than nothing."

McCain was not alone in his criticism and his idea was supported by two retired four-star generals.

"There's a huge tragedy unfolding: 1.5 million refugees, a couple of hundred thousand just in the last few weeks, 50,000 of this minority group stuck on —  up in the mountains," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told MSNBC.

"But these are political gestures using military power. We dropped three aircraft loads of water and food to 50,000 people in the mountains. Now we're striking ISIS artillery units. It looks to me as if a lot of this is internal U.S. politics to show we're doing something."

Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army Acting Chief of Staff, told Fox News the situation would be different if Obama had responded to a request for help from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki three months ago. "We did not respond," he said, noting Obama reacted by saying "I'm going to make a condition for American military response to be a political reconciliation of the government in Iraq."

Such a balk has added to the current crisis, which has forced the president's hand, said Keane who called for an emergency summit with Middle East allies to determine a more forceful strategy, including freezing assets of the Islamic militants.

"I think now in the full face of light, the fact of the matter is, that was an excuse not to act," Keane added. "The harsh reality is ISIS needs to be stopped regardless of the political situation in Iraq."

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

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