As U.S. jets attacked Iraqi militants Friday, House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio urged President Barack Obama to adopt a strategy to defeat the threat posed by Sunni fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Although Boehner backed Obama’s decision to launch targeted air strikes to protect U.S. military advisers from ISIS forces, the Republican House speaker from West Chester Twp. said Obama needs to develop “a long-term strategy” that “defines success as completing our mission, not keeping political promises – and he needs to build the public and congressional support to sustain it.”
In sharp language, Boehner said “vital national interests are at stake, yet the White House has remained disengaged despite warnings from Iraqi leaders, Congress, and even members of its own administration.” Boehner charged that “such parochial thinking only emboldens the enemy and squanders the sacrifices Americans have made.
Portman, while also backing “targeted airstrikes against ISIS terrorists threatening American interests,” said Obama needs to “to lead by working with our allies to turn back ISIS and preserve America’s hard-won gains in Iraq.”
Many GOP lawmakers have contended that the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq, which was begun under Republican President George W. Bush and completed by Obama as promised to voters in 2008, eliminated any leverage the Americans had over the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has splintered in the past few weeks under the onslaught of ISIS militants.
By contrast, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reflecting many Democrats who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, said “we must protect American troops and citizens in the region,” but warned that “we cannot allow the U.S. to be dragged into another war in Iraq.”
Brown said any intervention in Iraq “must be limited in scope and cannot commit American troops to ground combat operations. The world knows that (the ISIS insurgents are) persecuting tens of thousands of people … based on their religion. If the U.S. has the ability to provide targeted assistance that prevents genocide of religious minorities, we should help.”
Obama’s abrupt reversal to authorize air strikes to protect U.S. facilities in Iraq where American advisers are based was prompted in part by the mounting danger to the Iraqi regime from the ISIS forces as well as reports of thousands of Yazidi refugees trapped on a mountain.
The ISIS, made up of Sunni militants, has targeted the Yazidis, a religious minority who live in Kurdistan — which is part of Iraq — and Iraqi Christians.
For all their criticism of Obama, no Ohio Republican indicated any support for sending American ground forces into Iraq.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, called the flight of Iraqi Christians “tragic,” and said that America’s efforts in the region should not only protect U.S. facilities and citizens in the country, but also support the religious freedom of the Iraqi people.”