The United States should not underestimate the threat of the turmoil in Iraq, because problems stemming from the conflict could spill over to Europe and America, said Gen. Jack Keane.
Militant insurgents have quickly overtaken cities and regions in Iraq over a period of a few days. Hundreds of soldiers in Iraq's military have reportedly fled as the al-Qaida-inspired group marched through the streets of Mosul and Tikrit, and could advance to Iraq's capital of Baghdad.
"If we don't stop their advance and try to initiate a counteroffensive to push them back while we have the opportunity, while we have the foothold in Iraq to do that now, and apply military force now, we will have to fight them later," Keane, a retired four-star Army general, told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Friday.
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"It will threaten security in Europe, and it will threaten security in the United States. I'm not talking about indirect security. This is radical Islamists who have clear designs on destroying our way of life. And these people want to kill us. And we have to clearly understand what this threat is truly all about," he added.
There needs to be a "sense of urgency" among U.S. officials for the conflict in Iraq, Keane said. Options for aiding the Iraqis could include intelligence, satellite coverage, eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, and coordinated air power.
Keane said he would also send Gen. David Petraeus to Iraq to assess the situation and give a direct report to President Barack Obama. Petraeus oversaw the coalition forces during the war in Iraq.
"I would put Gen. Petraeus on an airplane, and let him get over there and provide some advice to [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki], report back, and make a very good assessment to the president of what also is needed," he said.
Keane said it was "predicted" that the spillover from the civil war in Syria would spread to Iraq. He said the group behind the militant insurgency, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), "owns swaths of territory in Syria," and now has secured "significant territory in Iraq."
Neighboring Iran has offered assistance to the Iraqi government in fighting back against ISIS. Keane said that while Iran looked at Iraq as their "client state," an alliance would portend "ill for the stability of the Middle East."
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