The Senate has one foot out the door for the Fourth of July holiday week, and Republican hawks are warning that by the time they get back, it could be too late for Iraq.
“By the time we get back it may be a done deal,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s effort to overtake Iraq. “The safe haven these guys are beginning to form from Syria to Baghdad is unbelievably dangerous to us here at home.”
The president has sent as many as 300 military advisers to the region to assess the damage and deliver recommendations about how the U.S. could provide support to the Iraqis.
At a closed-door briefing Tuesday night, senators were told it would be two or three weeks before the Pentagon had completed its first assessment.
“You don’t have two to three weeks,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “Look at the map of Iraq two weeks ago. They are moving quickly and they need to be stopped.”
The senators said they have not been presented with a concrete plan from the Obama administration about how it will address the security risks at the American Embassy and keep Baghdad from falling into the hands of the Islamic extremists.
“The president needs to make a recommendation on a plan to make sure that our people are safe and to ensure that [ISIS] isn’t in a position where it has established an Islamic caliphate that it can threaten our country,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. “The reality is, I’m not sure we have two weeks for him to make a decision on the Iraqi security situation.”
While none of the senators advocated for boots on the ground, some were hoping for air strikes and a strong effort to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with an Iraqi leader who would unite the Islamic factions currently engaged in war.
House Republicans are similarly calling on the president to act. In a press briefing Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner said he’s concerned Obama won’t act in time.
“Allowing terrorists to gain a safe haven in Iraq from which to plan and launch attacks on Americans and our allies is a serious problem,” Boehner said. “We’ve got to be engaged in Iraq; it’s in our national interest to help reverse the momentum and the spread of terrorism.”
Demanding that the president move more quickly appears to be the only action Congress is going to take. When asked if lawmakers would go off on holiday and leave the Iraq situation to the president, McCain shrugged his shoulders.
“Apparently,” he said.
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