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As Iraq Unravels, Boehner Calls for Obama’s Middle East Strategy (Video)
Posted at 12:58 p.m. on June 19
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said he is looking to the White House to craft an overall strategy to quell the spread of terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East, which he said has been “exponentially” on the rise during President Barack Obama’s presidency.
His comments come a day after he met with the president at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., along with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and the top two Senate leaders, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Boehner said Obama briefed the group on steps he plans to take, and has already taken, as the terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, advances toward Baghdad. But as Obama is scheduled to address the public on Thursday, Boehner noted that airstrikes, requested by Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, would not be enough in a vacuum.
“In and of itself it’s not the answer,” Boehner said. “Until we know what the overall strategy is, we don’t know what could be effective in reducing this violence. There’s not one piece to this and so I’m hopeful the president today will outline a strategy for dealing not only with Iraq, but the spread of violence throughout the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Pelosi reiterated her belief that the president does not need to obtain congressional approval to take military action in Iraq, though she said Obama’s lawyers were working to confirm the administration’s legal authority to unilaterally respond to the growing power of ISIS.
Pelosi told reporters that her support for the president acting on his best judgement should “not … be misinterpreted for any support for boots on the ground.”
Obama has already sent in 275 troops for security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy, and is reportedly eyeing sending special forces to help with training and other purposes, but not direct combat.
Pelosi wouldn’t comment on rumors, saying she would wait until after Obama’s remarks to send out an official statement. She did say that if it’s true that special forces were on the table, the president should “proceed cautiously in that regard.”
“I think you have to be careful sending in special forces,” she said, “because it’s a number that has a tendency to grow.”
Lawmakers are also grappling with how to respond to the increasing unrest in Iraq on the heels of an intent by antiwar Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to force votes on three related amendments on Thursday to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill up for consideration on the House floor. One would bar funds for the use of combat operations in Iraq, and the other two would repeal the 2002 and 2001 authorizations of force, respectively.
Pelosi was noncommittal about Lee’s amendments, saying there was no guarantee they would pass or “prevail as the law of the land.”
“I solute her actions in bringing [the amendments] to the floor … it certainly is a worthy discussion,” she said.