Republicans Warn Obama Doesn’t Have Two Weeks to Mull Iraq

Senate hawks say the president can’t afford to wait for a Pentagon assessment.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: (L-R) Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) talk after a Senate joint caucus meeting, on Capitol Hill, July 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The senators met in a closed-session in the Old Senate Chamber Wednesday evening to discuss the subjects of filibusters and presidential nominations. 
National Journal
Clara Ritger
June 25, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

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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