Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 12:57 PM
Frustrated Lawmakers urged President Obama to launch stronger U.S. action against extremists in Iraq and Syria, with both Democrats and Republicans calling for a more aggressive strategy against the group known as Islamic State.
“What is President Obama waiting for?” Rep. Peter King asked said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We can’t wait forever. And the longer we do wait, the stronger ISIS becomes, more people are massacred and the more America and Britain become at risk.”
“I think it’s very, very serious. We have to have a strategy to deal with it in Syria and Iraq, in this new caliphate, and to prevent that caliphate from expanding,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that aired today.
The Obama administration’s strategy for confronting Islamic State has drawn new attention after reports that the group includes hundreds of members holding U.S. or European passports who could travel back to conduct attacks in their home countries.
Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top- ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said the “biggest threat” to the U.S. are Americans and Britons who join extremist groups and also hold passports that make it easier for them to travel back to the U.S. — and harder for intelligence officials to identify.
The U.K. has raised its terror threat to “severe,” the second-highest level, and Prime Minister David Cameron will announce legislation tomorrow that would make it easier to confiscate passports of people suspected of wanting to travel to join extremist groups.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said the U.S. should increase participation of special forces and military advisers in the region.
“We have to defeat ISIS,” McCain said on “Face the Nation,” using an acronym for Islamic State. “Not contain, not stop. Defeat.”
Also appearing on “Face the Nation,” Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington told guest host Major Garrett the United States should build a coalition rather than going it alone. Otherwise, he said, “we run the risk of running Sunnis into their camp.”
Smith was reluctant to call for bombing in Syria since he said no evidence exists that ISIS is plotting attacks on America as al-Qaida was before 9/11.
Obama last week angered critics when he said he had “no strategy” on dealing with ISIS, no immediate plans to strike Islamic State havens inside Syria or to confront the extremist group beyond Iraq.
Obama said the U.S. will continue airstrikes on Islamic State positions and equipment in northern Iraq, as the “core priority” is protecting U.S. personnel and preventing extremists from overtaking the country. The U.S. has carried out more than 100 airstrikes against Islamic State positions since the campaign began Aug. 8.
But those airstrikes have only targeted ISIS convoys and checkpoints and to allow for U.S. humanitarian airdrops.
President Barack Obama’s inaction so far against ISIS is a strategic decision in itself, and portends trouble in other areas of foreign policy, says Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“You’re not going to humanitarian-aid ISIS out of Iraq and Syria,” the Michigan Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Obama said he’d “consult” with Congress about a strategy for the region, stopping short of saying he’d wait for congressional approval for airstrikes or other actions. The president already has authorized surveillance flights over Syria to track the militants.
Obama administration officials “are putting the pieces of the strategy together,” Michele Flournoy, the president’s former undersecretary of defense for policy, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
She noted the surveillance flights over Syria, the formation of a new Iraqi government under Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and that Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to the region to build a multi-nation coalition to address the threat.
“The pieces are starting to emerge,” though Obama “wants to take his time to get it right,” Flournoy said.
Ruppersberger said he expects “action within the next week or two” in Syria after U.S. officials collect the necessary intelligence.
“You just don’t come in and bomb unless you know where you are, who you are going to get,” Ruppersberger said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“We have got to go in cautiously. We have to understand where our targets are. We should have been doing this for a very long time, assessing this,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on CNN.
Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, urged U.S. officials to ally with moderate Sunnis in the region, saying that otherwise attacking the militants would indirectly assist Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
“We do not want to go into this on the side of Assad,” Smith said on CBS.
Pressure to confront Islamic State increased after the extremists beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley earlier this month. Human-rights groups said Islamic State executed more than 100 Syrian soldiers in an attack on the Tabaqa military airport.
Raqqa, where U.S. officials think Foley and other hostages have been held, is the first province fully outside Assad’s control, cementing Islamic State’s hold over its self-declared caliphate. That allows it to focus on neighboring Aleppo province, home to Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, where it already has seized villages and towns previously held by other rebels.
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