The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said members emerged from a classified briefing today skeptical about how much of a handle the Obama administration has on the Iraq crisis.
“During today’s briefing, members of the committee expressed grave concern over the threat posed to Iraqis, the region, and the national security interests of the United States, by this al-Qaeda off-shoot,” Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in regard to the seizure of Iraqi cities, including Mosul, by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
“Having failed to act months ago with drone strikes – as repeatedly requested by the Iraqi government – it is clear that the Obama administration is struggling to respond to this urgent situation,” Royce said. “Members of the committee pressed back on the notion that Iran could be a ‘constructive’ partner. While the administration continues to ‘review its options’ the threat from this al-Qaeda group grows greater and greater.”
The committee received the briefing from Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who was pilloried by Egyptians for embracing Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the start of the Tamarod revolution. She was later promoted by the Obama administration.
President Obama gathered congressional leaders in the Oval Office this afternoon for a meeting “as part of his ongoing consultations with congressional leadership on foreign policy issues, including here obviously the situation in Iraq,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
“Any consideration of military action must be informed by the situation on the ground and the objectives to be obtained as well as the consequences of its use,” Carney said.
“So the meeting today will be part of a process of consultation with Congress. The president obviously will inform him of some of — inform the leaders of his thinking on some of these issues. But we’ll also want to hear about their thinking.”
The issue of getting Iran’s help came up on the sidelines of this week’s P5+1 nuclear talks in Geneva.
“I can tell you that we are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq,” Carney said.
“…We would encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to act in a responsible, nonsectarian way and to encourage the government of Iraq and all Iraqi leaders to do the same. Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the government of Iraq must focus now on strengthening its internal political and security institutions in a nonsectarian way.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted in a floor speech today “the president likes to go around saying the war is over.”
“But no one told ISIL that. No one told al-Qaeda that. No one has told these terrorists that. They don’t think the war is over. In fact, in their minds, this war will go on for hundreds of years. And the only person who can rally this country behind a plan to address it is not a U.S. senator or a member of Congress, not the Majority Leader or the Speaker of the House, not the countless people who write very well-informed opinion pieces in our newspapers. The only person in this country who can rally us around a plan to address this is the president himself,” Rubio said.
“The national security of the United States should never be a partisan issue. For if terrorists carry out an attack in our homeland, they will not attack Democratic sites but not Republican sites. They will not target conservatives, but leave liberals alone. They will target Americans. Americans from every political persuasion died on 9/11. And I fear that, that may happen at some point again. So we should all care about this.”