Obama on ISIS: ‘We Don’t Yet Have A Complete Strategy’

The president said in a press conference from the G-7 meeting Monday that the Pentagon is still waiting on “commitments” from the Iraqi government.

President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at Elmau Castle near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, on June 8, 2015 at the end of a G7 summit. 
National Journal
Nora Kelly and Rebecca Nelson
Add to Briefcase
Nora Kelly and Rebecca Nelson
June 8, 2015, 6:23 a.m.

In a press con­fer­ence Monday, Pres­id­ent Obama said that the Pentagon hasn’t presen­ted him with a “fi­nal­ized plan” on com­bat­ing the Is­lam­ic State, spe­cific­ally with the help of Ir­aqi forces.

“We don’t yet have a com­plete strategy,” Obama said, speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence from the in­ter­na­tion­al G-7 sum­mit in Kruen, Ger­many, “be­cause it re­quires com­mit­ments on the part of the Ir­aqis as well about how re­cruit­ment takes place, how that train­ing takes place. And so the de­tails of that are not yet worked out.”

The two-day sum­mit, con­vened on Sunday, is named for its par­ti­cip­at­ing Group of Sev­en na­tions—the United States, the United King­dom, Ger­many, France, Italy, Ja­pan, and Canada. For the second year in a row, the meet­ing is miss­ing a formerly key play­er: Rus­sia, which was sus­pen­ded from the group after the start of the con­flict in Ukraine. But that na­tion wasn’t far from lead­ers’ minds: Much of Sunday’s talks fo­cused on what Obama char­ac­ter­ized over the week­end as “stand­ing up to Rus­si­an ag­gres­sion.”

The pres­id­ent called out Rus­sia for its ac­tions in east­ern Ukraine—which he said vi­ol­ate “Ukraine’s sov­er­eignty and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity”—and said sanc­tions im­posed on Rus­sia by the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity have ser­i­ously dam­aged its eco­nomy.

“Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Ukraine are hurt­ing Rus­sia and the Rus­si­an people,” he said.

In a form­al de­clar­a­tion re­leased by the White House on Monday morn­ing, the G-7 en­cour­aged “all sides” in the Rus­sia-Ukraine con­flict to abide by the Minsk agree­ments, which call for the re­mov­al of heavy weaponry from the front lines and a cease-fire. The na­tions said sanc­tions on Rus­sia would re­main un­til Rus­sia re­cog­nizes Ukraine’s sov­er­eignty and abides by the Minsk agree­ments.

Obama said Monday that the G-7 part­ners are pur­su­ing a “dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion” for the Ukraine con­flict, but “the G-7 is mak­ing it clear, if ne­ces­sary, we stand ready to im­pose ad­di­tion­al sig­ni­fic­ant sanc­tions against Rus­sia.”

The G-7 also ex­pressed “sup­port” for the U.S. and E.U. na­tions’ on­go­ing ne­go­ti­ations with Ir­an to craft a nuc­le­ar deal, which has a June 30 dead­line and which the G-7 hopes will en­sure “the ex­clus­ively peace­ful nature of Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gramme.”

Obama also ad­dressed the at­tack on a U.S. per­son­nel file that looks to have ori­gin­ated from China. Push­ing Con­gress to pass cy­ber­se­cur­ity le­gis­la­tion, he par­tially blamed the breach on old sys­tems, ac­know­ledging that “both state and non­state act­ors are send­ing everything they’ve got at try­ing to breach these sys­tems.”

“This prob­lem is not go­ing to go away,” he said. “It is go­ing to ac­cel­er­ate, and that means that we have to be as nimble, as ag­gress­ive, and as well re­sourced as those try­ing to break in­to the sys­tem.”

Monday’s talks, near the Ger­man-Aus­tri­an bor­der in the town of Kruen, also fo­cused on com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism around the world. Ir­aqi Prime Min­is­ter Haid­er al-Abadi and Ni­geri­an Pres­id­ent Muham­madu Buhari are at­tend­ing the con­clave to dis­cuss the threat of groups such as the Is­lam­ic State and Boko Haram. Obama met with al-Abadi earli­er Monday and called him a “re­li­able part­ner.”

Obama said the United States is ex­amin­ing a “range of plans” for how Ir­aqi forces might bet­ter com­bat the “nimble,” “ag­gress­ive,” and “op­por­tun­ist­ic” Is­lam­ic State fight­ers. Two key ele­ments to im­prov­ing their com­bat read­i­ness in­clude train­ing Ir­aqi sol­diers faster and find­ing more re­cruits.

“Where we’ve trained Ir­aqi forces dir­ectly and equipped them and we have a train-and-as­sist pos­ture, they op­er­ate ef­fect­ively,” Obama said. “Where we haven’t—mor­ale, lack of equip­ment, etc.—may un­der­mine the ef­fect­ive­ness of Ir­aqi se­cur­ity forces.”

On the Su­preme Court’s up­com­ing rul­ing on the Af­ford­able Care Act in King v. Bur­well, Obama re­it­er­ated that “there is no reas­on why the ex­ist­ing ex­changes should be over­turned through a court case.”

“This should be an easy case,” he said. “Frankly, it prob­ably shouldn’t have even been taken up.”

Obama ad­ded: “What’s more, the thing is work­ing. I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about the hor­rors of Obama­care, be­cause none of them have come to pass.”

The na­tions’ lead­ers also ad­dressed cli­mate change. In a com­mu­niqué an­nounced Monday, they pledged to keep glob­al tem­per­at­ures be­low a rise of 2 de­grees Celsi­us, or 3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit—which sci­ent­ists say is a crit­ic­al bench­mark for curb­ing the ef­fects of glob­al warm­ing—and called for the coun­tries to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the cen­tury.

“We con­tin­ue to make pro­gress to­ward a strong glob­al cli­mate agree­ment this year in Par­is,” Obama said in the press con­fer­ence, re­fer­ring to United Na­tions-led cli­mate talks later this year. “All the G-7 coun­tries have now put for­ward our post-2020 tar­gets for re­du­cing car­bon emis­sions, and we’ll con­tin­ue to urge oth­er sig­ni­fic­ant emit­ters to do so as well.”

What We're Following See More »
Trump Drops Ultimatum on Healthcare
10 hours ago

"President Trump delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans on Thursday night: Vote to approve the measure to overhaul the nation’s health-care system on the House floor Friday, or reject it and the president will move on to his other legislative priorities." Passage remains far from certain, however, even with a 3pm Friday vote scheduled.

Trump’s SEC Chair Nominee Faces Tough Questioning
16 hours ago

Jay Clayton, Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, was grilled today during his hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. In question were his extensive ties to Wall Street and his potential conflicts of interest. During his hearing, Clayton promised he would not show favoritism to anyone. Clayton's financial disclosure revealed that Clayton "raked in $7.6 million in the year leading up to his nomination, buoyed by a client roster that included big banks such as Goldman Sachs. President Donald Trump has picked Goldman alums for several regulatory roles in his administration."

Health Vote Postponed
16 hours ago
Senators Press Sonny Perdue on Budget Cuts
17 hours ago

"Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s pick to lead the Agriculture Department, faced pointed questions about the administration’s proposed cuts to rural assistance programs during his otherwise friendly Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. Throughout the hearing, Perdue affirmed his commitment to several programs that could face cuts due to Trump’s budget: the Rural Utilities Service; the Natural Resource Conservation Center; and various agricultural research programs," even as the president's budget would cut his agency by 20 percent.

No Deal on Healthcare
18 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.