Senators Urge Air Power to Support Iraq Against Insurgents. Again.

“Iraq is collapsing,” Lindsey Graham says as Senate Armed Services holds a closed-door meeting to discuss U.S. options in the face of the Iraqi government’s failure.

Kurdish Iraqi Peshmerga forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles on the outskirts of the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, only 1 kilometre away from areas controlled by Sunni Muslim Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the main road between Kirkuk, Mosul and Baiji in northern Iraq on June 12, 2014. With ISIL's Islamist fighters closing in on the Iraqi capital Baghdad, forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region took control of disputed northern oil hub of Kirkuk to protect it from Islamist attack, officials said. 
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Add to Briefcase
Clara Ritger
June 12, 2014, 11:17 a.m.

Sen­at­ors — Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic alike — have be­gun openly call­ing for re­newed U.S. air strikes to keep al-Qaida-in­spired in­sur­gents from Bagh­dad, as se­cur­ity throughout Ir­aq de­teri­or­ates rap­idly.

Emer­ging from a clas­si­fied brief­ing, sen­at­ors ruled out send­ing U.S. ground troops back in­to the war zone. But many urged Pres­id­ent Obama to con­sider oth­er op­tions to aid Nuri al-Ma­liki’s weak gov­ern­ment.

“Ir­aq is col­lapsing as I speak,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham. “There is no scen­ario where we can stop the bleed­ing in Ir­aq without Amer­ic­an air power. I would urge the ad­min­is­tra­tion to get all of our people out now. We’ve got an­oth­er Benghazi in the mak­ing.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat, said air strikes “might be the only way” to hold off the in­sur­gents, be­lieved to be the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia, while the Ir­aqis re­group.

The at­tacks and the Ir­aqis’ pathet­ic re­sponse took the U.S. gov­ern­ment by sur­prise, the sen­at­ors said. A num­ber of Ir­aqi mil­it­ary di­vi­sions col­lapsed as sol­diers aban­doned their weapons and uni­forms, provided by the U.S. gov­ern­ment so that they could de­fend them­selves after Amer­ic­an troops left.

“The pres­id­ent should get rid of his en­tire na­tion­al se­cur­ity team, in­clud­ing the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona. “I am not call­ing for air strikes. I am call­ing for the ad­vice and coun­sel of the smartest people who won the war in Ir­aq be­fore the pres­id­ent of the United States lost it.”

Most sen­at­ors, however, said they wanted to work closely with the pres­id­ent on a plan. At the brief­ing, the sen­at­ors were told the Ir­aqi gov­ern­ment had re­ques­ted U.S. as­sist­ance.

“If they call for aid, we should provide it,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Bob Cork­er of Ten­ness­ee. “This was the con­cern, that they would not be able to them­selves deal with this kind of prob­lem.”

However, Sen. Carl Lev­in, a Michigan Demo­crat, was cau­tious about U.S. in­volve­ment.

“I’m call­ing for a very thought­ful, care­ful, ser­i­ous look at all the op­tions,” Lev­in said, adding in an emailed state­ment, “It’s un­clear how air strikes on our part can suc­ceed un­less the Ir­aqi army is will­ing to fight, and that’s un­cer­tain giv­en the fact that sev­er­al Ir­aqi army di­vi­sions have melted away.”

Lev­in was among a num­ber of sen­at­ors who blamed Ir­aqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki for fail­ing to unite the Is­lam­ic fac­tions in the na­tion be­fore they turned to vi­ol­ence, and said it is un­clear U.S. in­volve­ment would change that.

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