A top Republican lawmaker says the Obama administration has "no strategy" to combat radical Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. John McCain was one of several senators who spoke after a closed-door briefing by top U.S. officials on Capitol Hill.
For months, Senator McCain has been one of Congress’ most-outspoken critics of President Obama’s handing of the security crisis in Iraq. Tuesday was no exception.
“There is no strategy for countering the largest enclave of terrorism in history on the Iraq-Syria border. They have no strategy, nor could they articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates are [[predict]], over time, will be a direct threat to the United States of America," said McCain.
McCain spoke after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee behind closed doors. A former intelligence chief during the George W. Bush administration, Michael Hayden, was also seen entering the secured room.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was asked if she shared McCain’s impression of an administration adrift when it comes to Iraq.
“I think they have strategies. I just think, if the American people are looking for some simple sound bite, it would be irresponsible to give one, because it is complicated," said McCaskill.
McCaskill listed Iran’s involvement in Iraq and the Iraqi government’s lack of inclusiveness as complicating factors.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he is more convinced than ever that some exercise of U.S. military might will be required to halt the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in recent months.
“No one [in the briefing] gave us a scenario where the safe haven they [ISIL] enjoy in Syria and Iraq could be eradicated without some American military force. No boots on the ground, but air power," said Graham.
Senators of both parties declined to comment when asked if the administration gave any signals that U.S. air strikes in Iraq were imminent.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said the determining factor as to what should be done is the safety of the United States and every American citizen. He said breeding grounds for terrorists cannot be tolerated, but the situation in Iraq remains a question mark more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.
Later in the day, members of the House of Representatives were to receive a separate classified briefing on Iraq, continuing weeks of sustained consultations between the Obama administration and lawmakers.