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Partisan divisions emerge over U.S. mission in Iraq

As the U.S. continues limited, targeted airstrikes for the third day in Iraq, political divisions around the scope of U.S. involvement are emerging in Washington.

Top-ranking Democrats who appeared on political talk shows Sunday advocated for a limited mission and insisted that the Iraqi government must respond to the growing threat of the extreme militant group ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State but formerly was known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Republicans, meanwhile, are advocating a far more aggressive stance, insisting that ISIS poses a direct threat to the U.S. They urged President Barack Obama to do more than the limited airstrikes he announced Friday.

ISIS, which obtained sustained power in parts of Syria, has expanded its deadly grip on parts of Iraq, especially the Kurdish north, where tens of thousands of Yazidi minorities had been forced into mountains, where they’re stranded without food and water. Up to 60 children are among those who have died from the extreme conditions.

The militant group executes civilians who don’t adhere to its version of Sunni Islam. Its goal is to create an Islamic caliphate, which it claims it has already done, calling the regions they control in Iraq and Syria the Islamic State.

Obama announced airstrikes to protect the hundreds of Americans working in the region and said humanitarian assistance to Kurdish minorities would be part of a limited mission that he described as a “long-term project.”

But in Washington, Republicans harshly criticized the President and his mission, saying it is too little, too late.

The U.S. role

“ISIS continues to make gains everywhere,” Republican Sen. John McCain said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Obama’s approach to protect military and diplomatic personnel in the area, McCain said, is “narrow” in scope and “clearly very, very ineffective, to say the least.”

“That’s not a strategy,” he said, calling for additional airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to dismantle ISIS and to provide additional military equipment to the Kurds and the Syrian fighters who oppose ISIS.

That sentiment for an expanded involvement was echoed by Rep. Peter King, R-New York.

“I am saying we should do whatever we have to do,” the House Homeland Security Committee member said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” including, “we take nothing off the table.”

On Sunday, Democrats, however, expressed support for the President’s targeted airstrikes and cautioned against any broader involvement.

“Escalating it is not on the cards,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said on “Meet the Press.” “We cannot send the troops. We must not send the troops.”

But King insisted his support for a broader operation, which includes “massive aircraft,” does not involve U.S. combat troops back into the country after nearly a decade of war and three years after the troops left. “Let’s not set up the false argument that there have to be troops on the ground,” he said.

The role of Iraqis

Democrats said Sunday that the U.S. can do little beyond provide humanitarian assistance and protect American personnel. They said it is ultimately up to Iraqis to address the crisis engulfing their country.

“Only Iraq can save Iraq,” Durbin said. “If Iraqis come together, al-Maliki put in power someone in power with the Shias and Kurds, perhaps they can do it themselves.”

The U.S. relationship with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has deteriorated. He has been blamed for escalating tensions between religious and ethnic sects within Iraq between the Shia majority, the Sunni minority, the Kurds and smaller groups of minorities, causing the destabilization of the country. The Iraqi Parliament is expected to choose a new prime minister soon, and Democrats say that the new leader should unite the shattered country.

Democrats say that political reconciliation in Baghdad would be able to address the crisis, which Sen. Ben Cardin, D- Maryland, called a “civil war.”

“The real cause is that the Iraqi government has not performed the way it should to protect the rights of all Iraqis,” Cardin said on “Fox news Sunday.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed that the U.S. is not responsible for repairing a country fraught with political divisions. “This has to be a political strategy that takes place in Baghdad and not in Washington,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

But King lambasted the Democrats, saying they are providing a limited view of Iraq and the threat of ISIS. He insisted that the problem is much deeper than intra-Iraq turmoil.

Threat to the U.S.

He called the Democrats’ position, which is similar to the one Obama expressed this past week, a “shameful abdication of American leadership.”

King said ISIS is a threat beyond Iraq and Syria, calling the group more powerful than al Qaeda was on September 11, 2001, when the U.S. was attacked.

“I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States,” King said of ISIS.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, offered a similar, dire sentiment of the threat from the militant group shunned by al Qaeda because of its extreme, violent tactics.

“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorist ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here.”

5 comments

  • Robbie

    Republicans love war and they just don’t get it. I’ve said this a thousand times…the American people are sick of war. President Obama hears the people. ISIS got their weapons from the Iraqi army that’s to cowardly to fight. Iraq’s government wanted us out years ago and now they want our help. Air strikes are enough. Republicans want more to be done but of course none of their children will be dying for their cause. We have problems here so let’s deal with those.

    • manalishi

      We have been told ever since the pullout began of all the progress Iraq and the new government was making. You failed administration did not bother to tell us that all the progress was made by ISIS as the new government. To add insult to injury, they are using the equipment YOUR administration thought prudent to abandon there. Every media outlet EXCEPT the MSM have kept the public abreast of the ISIS crisis.

  • airjackie

    Well 2000 President Clinton broke in news stations with word of take by terrorist but they said a major US city. 2001 Bush ignored the memo of an attack in NY as the plans were discussed on how to invade Iraq. 9/11 hit and the move was Saddam WMD-Mushroom Cloud and it worked. Invasion no weapons and no mushroom cloud but quick control of Iraq oil fields and placing a puppet President Maliki to follow orders. Maliki went rogue and the Saudi Government funded ISIS to take over. Well threats to the US Embassy as Obama calls the Speaker as the rule Congress has to approve using US planes. Boehner said Congress would be back to discuss the matter in Sept. as their on a 5 week vacation. With a threat to US Embassy and Obama orders planes by executive order. Senator Cruz announced Obama violated the law by not waiting for Congress which is grounds for Impeachment. Yet Congress is having a hearing about Benghazi blaming Obama/Hillary for the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and soldiers. Stevens went to Congress twice for extra security but denied and then 9/11/2012 as the enemy knew no protection would come. Obama had to protect our US Embassy to assure no deaths as Congress again did nothing and Cruz has no idea what he is talking about but spreads hate for Obama for donations.

  • c

    Remembering Obama’s positioning on Iraq in 07. Remember Obama’s Campaign Promises on Iraq in 08.
    Remembering Obama praising self in 12 for Bring Home the Troops, “as promised”, he said. Now, “Long Term
    Project” in Iraq. Obama Free Weapons to Syria, are now in hands of ISIS, Human, and Al Qaeda. Obama said Al Qaeda is defeated over 37 times. Plenty of weapons left behind for any and all Rebel/Terrorists. Gaddafi’s infamous armory and more infamous chemical weapons arsenal left behind for known Rebel/Terrorists in Libya. Didn’t rebel/terrorist attack US in Libya? That was in thanks and as promised pay for Obama’s “help”? Were they the same chemicals used in Syria to start trouble with Russia? The Commander-in-Chief IS The Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

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