Republicans in Congress are urging U.S. military action in Iraq to stop a Sunni insurgent group that has taken over territory including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the U.S. should go forward with airstrikes and rally the Arab League to use special forces to “disrupt” the advance of ISIL or ISIS, as the insurgent group is called.
“It’s too late to have long political reconciliation meetings,” Rogers said on Fox News Sunday. “You have an al-Qaeda army on the move.”
President Obama has said he wants Iraqi President Maliki to reach a political solution before the U.S. considers airstrikes in support of the Iraqi army, which the U.S. spent billions training during its eight years in the country. Obama has ruled out using U.S. ground troops in Iraq.
In calling for airstrikes, Rogers and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., argue that the insurgents’ success will create a safe haven for planning terrorist activity against the U.S. “The next 9/11 is coming from here,” Graham said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Rogers offered no time frame for military intervention. “This is not going to go away, but neither is al-Qaeda,” he said. “I don’t think you can put a timeline on it. It depends on how effective we are and how effective we can make our Arab League partners.”
Graham said the U.S. should engage in talks with Iran, to warn that nation not to use the sectarian conflict to increase its involvement in Iraq. “To ignore Iran and not tell them ‘don’t take advantage of this situation’ would be a mistake,” he said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Graham said the U.S. needs to engage with Iran to negotiate a settlement in Iraq, whether we like it or not.
“Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler,” he said. “The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an Iraq veteran who favors airstrikes against the insurgents, said on State of the Union that he is dismayed the country where he fought has again been overtaken by civil war. “On a personal level, this feels terrible,” he said. But he called on the U.S. to “push back this very evil organization, which is ISIS, and give the Iraqi government some breathing space.”
Democrats said that the Iraqi government should push for diplomacy before military action.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who is also an Iraq veteran, said the U.S. should try to broker an agreement between the Sunni-led insurgents and the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. The conflict is a religious civil war and more aid to the Iraqi army will not solve that, she said. “You can’t train away the core issue,” she said on CNN.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized U.S. intelligence gathering for failing to capture the seriousness of the ISIL threat. He favors airstrikes and technical support, “whatever it takes, but I want to make sure our intel is accurate before we start doing this,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. But Manchin also questioned whether intervention could ultimately succeed in ending sectarian violence. “If there was military might or money that could change the culture of these countries, we would have done it by now.”
Ryan Crocker, ambassador to Iraq during the Bush administration, said diplomacy should come first. “We need the Secretary of State there in Baghdad right now,” he said on CNN, adding that the Iraqi government is not now able to handle difficult negotiations in the conflict that involves Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The U.S. must be the broker, Crocker says. “We are the essential middle man.”