Obama on Iraq: We Will Be Prepared to Take Targeted Military Action

“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” Obama said, “but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people.”

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an East Room event at the White House June 9, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama signed a presidential memorandum on 'reducing the burden of student loan debt.'
National Journal
June 19, 2014, 9:41 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced Thursday af­ter­noon that the U.S. will be step­ping up its in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing and mil­it­ary sup­port to help the Ir­aqis, but will not em­ploy com­bat forces out­right to deal with the crisis in the coun­try.

However, he said the U.S. “will be pre­pared to take tar­geted and pre­cise mil­it­ary ac­tion if and when we de­term­ine that the situ­ation on the ground re­quires it.”

In the last few weeks, a Sunni mil­it­ant group known as the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia has taken a num­ber of ma­jor cit­ies in the north­ern and west­ern re­gions of Ir­aq. The group’s mil­it­ary cam­paign has car­ried IS­IS fight­ers with­in strik­ing dis­tance of the Ir­aqi cap­it­al of Bagh­dad, and re­cent gains in north­w­est Ir­aq have brought the group closer to its goal of es­tab­lish­ing con­trol over a con­tigu­ous area span­ning the Ir­aqi-Syr­i­an bor­der.

“Amer­ic­an forces will not be re­turn­ing to com­bat in Ir­aq,” Obama said, “but we will help Ir­aqis as they take the fight to ter­ror­ists who threaten the Ir­aqi people, the re­gion, and Amer­ic­an in­terests as well.”

Pres­id­ent Obama met with con­gres­sion­al lead­ers Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss op­tions for Amer­ic­an as­sist­ance in Ir­aq. In the meet­ing, the pres­id­ent prom­ised to keep Con­gress in­formed as the situ­ation evolves. In a state­ment after the meet­ing, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id said the pres­id­ent “is not cur­rently con­sid­er­ing ac­tions that would re­quire con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al but was very clear that he would con­sult with Con­gress if that changed.”

The pres­id­ent framed Amer­ic­an ac­tion in Ir­aq in terms of na­tion­al se­cur­ity rather than in terms of hu­man­it­ari­an con­cern. “It is in our na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­terests not to see an all-out civil war in­side of Ir­aq,” Obama said. “Not just for hu­man­it­ari­an reas­ons but be­cause that ul­ti­mately can be destabil­iz­ing throughout the re­gion.” The spread of this con­flict would pose a threat to re­gion­al al­lies, the pres­id­ent said, and to the glob­al en­ergy mar­ket.

Ir­aq’s em­battled prime min­is­ter, Nuri al-Ma­liki, may be on his last legs. With Amer­ic­an sup­port, Ir­aqi can­did­ates, Sunni and Shiite both, are man­euv­er­ing to re­place the Shiite prime min­is­ter, whose sec­tari­an policies have been blamed for the cur­rent chaos in the coun­try.

“It’s not the place for the United States to choose Ir­aq’s lead­ers,” Obama said Thursday. “It is clear, though, that only lead­ers that can gov­ern with an in­clus­ive agenda are go­ing to be able to truly bring the Ir­aqi people to­geth­er and help them through this crisis.” This echoes Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry’s po­s­i­tion that any U.S. in­ter­ven­tion would be fo­cused on the wel­fare of the Ir­aqi state, not on prop­ping up the cur­rent prime min­is­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, Ir­a­ni­an Pres­id­ent Has­san Rouh­ani an­nounced that Ir­an “will not hes­it­ate” to in­volve it­self in Ir­aq in or­der to pro­tect sites holy to Shiite Muslims. Ir­an is a ma­jor back­er of Ma­liki’s gov­ern­ment in Ir­aq.

Obama warned that Ir­a­ni­an in­volve­ment could be harm­ful if it took on a sec­tari­an tint. “If Ir­an is com­ing in solely as an armed force on be­half of the [Shiites],” Obama said, “then that prob­ably wor­sens the situ­ation and the pro­spect for gov­ern­ment form­a­tion that would ac­tu­ally be con­struct­ive over the long term.”

The U.S. and Ir­an have dis­cussed the pos­sib­il­ity of co­oper­at­ing in Ir­aq to drive back IS­IS forces, but the two are less likely to share in­terests if the U.S. turns away from sup­port­ing Ma­liki. Con­gres­sion­al lead­ers have spoken out against co­oper­at­ing with Ir­an: House Speak­er John Boehner and House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi both warned against any col­lab­or­a­tion.

But for Obama, co­oper­at­ing with Ir­an de­pends on the de­cisions of its lead­er­ship. “Just as Ir­aq’s lead­ers have to make de­cisions, I think Ir­an has heard from us,” Obama said.

This story is break­ing and may be up­dated.

What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

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.

Login