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Tags: obama | isis | strategy | feinstein | rogers

Feinstein, Rogers: 'Times a Wasting' as Obama Mulls ISIS Strategy

By    |   Sunday, 07 September 2014 11:58 AM EDT

President Barack Obama will begin laying out a strategy this week to defeat Islamic State militants in the Middle East, meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday and giving a speech Wednesday, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Obama disclosed his plans during an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it and to have confidence that we'll be able to deal with it," he said in the interview conducted Saturday at the White House shortly after his return from a NATO summit in Wales where the Islamic State threat was a key topic of discussion.

Obama restated his opposition to sending U.S. ground troops to engage in direct combat with the militants, who have laid claim to large swaths of territory in Iraq, targeted religious and ethnic minority groups, and threatened U.S. personnel and interests in the region.

At Obama's direction, the U.S. military has conducted more than 130 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the past month. In retaliation, the group recently beheaded two American journalists it had been holding hostage in Syria, where the organization also operates.

Lawmakers have pressed Obama to expand the airstrikes into Syria. He has resisted so far, but said he has asked his military advisers for options for pursuing the group there.

In the interview, Obama said the U.S. would not go after the Islamic State group alone, but would operate as part of an international coalition and continue airstrikes to support ground efforts that would be carried out by Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

At the NATO summit, the U.S. and nine allies agreed to take on the militants because of the threat they pose to member countries.

"Clearly, he's put together a coalition of the willing — we have heard that before — to tackle this problem. That's good," said Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

At the same time, the president "needs to engage Congress, the American people, on what exactly we're going to do here," said Rogers, R-Mich.

Make the case why the extremists are a threat to the U.S. and lay out the strategy, Rogers said. But, he said, "We need to have an endgame."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to hear what the diplomatic and military parts of Obama's plan are.

"Time's a wasting, because we have now said that we're going to go on the offensive. And it's time for America to project power and strength," said Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee and joined Rogers on CNN's "State of the Union."

"You need two things to defeat ISIS the way they're configured. Remember, they have a governing council," Rogers pointed out. "They have an oil minister that appointed what we think generates about $1 million a day in revenue for this terrorist organization that funds its operations. And we hope it doesn't go external.

"When you start acting like a government, you start acting in the control of that territory and an army, it presents targets of opportunity, so that you can continue to degrade and dismantle them," Rogers continued.

To do so, "We have intelligence and special-capability military forces that would have to operate with our allies, with the Arab — our Arab League partners, with the Peshmerga. And we're not configured to do that today," Rogers said.

"And, if we do that, we can add leverage to this fight in a way that can be very, very effective. But it does mean that we will have some forces who will be exposed," Rogers said. "This doesn't mean big military, 101st Airborne. It does mean these intelligence service folks and our special-capability military."

Added Feinstein: "ISIS is a major threat to this country in the future and right now to the entirety of Syria and Iraq, and the expanding caliphate

"I think where they're going is to Baghdad. It is my belief they will try to attack our embassy. So we're going to protect our embassy, protect our consulate in Erbil, and, at the same time, begin to use Special Operations, more ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and
Reconnaissance], crack down on where they're getting their money, and taking aggressive action against this terrorist group."

CNN's Candy Crowley asked both what they would like to see from the president's speech Wednesday.

"First of all, he needs to acknowledge the problem of ISIS. There's been some confusion coming out of the administration. This is the toughest talk that we have heard from the president. And I agree with Senator Feinstein. That's a good thing, because they are a threat.

"The senator and I see all this intelligence, and that's very - been very, very concerning for us. So this is important, that he lays out the case to the United States of why it is a threat."

The threat is not just to Iraq and Syria, "but it's also everything in the Levant. They want Lebanon. They want Israel. They want Jordan. And so they're causing trouble in all of those places," Rogers said.

Feinstein said she spoke to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Saturday and asked him who is going to be in charge of the effort against ISIS.

"And he (Rhodes) said very clearly Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry. So, what I want to hear is from both of those two, what is the military plan and what is the diplomatic plan? And time's a wasting, because we have now said that we're going to go on the offensive. And it's time for America to project power and strength," she said.

"The one thing is —  Wednesday, when he speaks, is that —  what the change is, what the coalition of the willing is willing to do, what the Saudis are going to do, if, in fact —  and there's a difference of opinion on this —  is Iran going to help? Iran has offered to help. I, for one, think that's useful —  what other Middle Eastern countries are going to do, and what would be the prime role for America. I hope we have Special Operations. We have made air attacks now 137 times," Feinstein said.

Obama's emerging strategy depends on the formation of a new government in Iraq, as well as cooperation and contributions from regional partners, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey. Obama said he expected the Iraqi government to be formed this week.

"What I want people to understand ... is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL," he said, using an alternate name for the group. "We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat them."

The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, appealed to its member states to confront "militarily and politically" Islamic State insurgents. Support from the Arab League could provide Obama with the international coalition he hoped to create.

It wasn't immediately clear what steps the Arab League might take.

Elaraby said Sunday in Cairo that what is needed from Arab countries is a "clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation" to what he called "cancerous and terrorist" groups.

Obama said his administration has seen no intelligence that suggests an immediate threat to the U.S. from the Islamic State group. But, he said, the militants can become a serious threat to the homeland if they are allowed to control even more territory and amass more financial and other resources, including foreign fighters.

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Headline
President Barack Obama will begin laying out a strategy this week to defeat Islamic State militants in the Middle East, meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday and giving a speech Wednesday, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S....
obama, isis, strategy, feinstein, rogers
1272
2014-58-07
Sunday, 07 September 2014 11:58 AM
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