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McCain, House Democrat Warn US Has 'No Plan' for Iraq, ISIL

Jul. 8, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Hawaii Democrat, is warning that the Obama administration is flying blind in responding to a violent Islamic group's destabilizing advance in Iraq — a line that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is also touting.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Hawaii Democrat, is warning that the Obama administration is flying blind in responding to a violent Islamic group's destabilizing advance in Iraq — a line that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is also touting. ()
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WASHINGTON — US Sen. John McCain is echoing a House Democrat’s warning that the Obama administration is flying blind in responding to a violent Islamic group’s destabilizing advance in Iraq.

The Arizona Republican emerged from a closed-door classified briefing with senior Pentagon leaders to declare the administration “has no strategy” to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

McCain told reporters that during the briefing, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey “could not articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates [say] is a direct threat to the United States of America.”

McCain is one of the most vocal critics of President Barack Obama and his administration on foreign policy and national security issues. But Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Hawaii Democrat, is not.

Before July 4 fireworks exploded in skies across America, the House Armed Services Committee member ignited some rhetorical fireworks on Twitter.

“National Security officials are indicating that we are making this up as we go along in Iraq,” she tweeted July 3. “

“We have almost 1,000 troops on the ground, armed drones in the air, and squadrons of attack helicopters in Iraq, but no real plan,” Hanabusa wrote.

McCain and other Republican hawks on Capitol Hill say Obama should launch air strikes ahead of his desired new political arrangement in Iraq.

They say ISIL, which has threatened America, and its advance across Syria and Iraq is an immediate Washington concern.

“We should be taking actions to remove that threat,” McCain said.

Hanabusa and McCain share a view that the White House and Pentagon lack a plan in Iraq. But they diverge on whether the situation there and ISIL pose a direct threat to the United States.

“I have yet to hear any meaningful outline of exactly what interests are served by our involvement in Iraq,” Hanabusa tweeted. “Continuing to apply resources without a definition of how it serves our national interests is a disservice to the American people.”

Asked on Monday to respond to Hanabusa’s comments, a White House spokesman referred CongressWatch to Obama’s recent comments about Iraq.

The spokesman directed a reporter to Obama’s June 19 statement on Iraq in the White House briefing room.

Obama laid out a multipronged approach that includes sending US forces to support Iraqi troops, increasing American intelligence capabilities devoted to Iraq and bolstering security at Washington’s Embassy in Baghdad.

Obama also spoke of stepping up work with America’s allies “to support stability in Iraq.”

The Obama administration is trying to convince Iraqi leaders to strike a new political arrangement to create a government that includes all its major ethnic groups, including Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

Embattled Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki has angered and isolated his nation’s Sunni population with military operations against its members, which the Obama administration has denounced despite green-lighting arms shipments to the Maliki government in the past few months.

During the June 19 remarks, Obama said he wanted to “emphasize” that the “best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.”

Lawmakers and experts say that will not be feasible until Maliki steps down or announces a new government.

Asked if Hagel and Dempsey gave the senators an update on work toward that new political deal, McCain told CongressWatch, “no,” with a shake of his head.

Email: jbennett@defensenews.com.

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