Republican Representative Peter King of New York, echoing other
critics of Obama's policy in Iraq, criticized Obama for insisting he
will not send U.S. ground troops to combat the militants, adding the
United States has been too timid so far.
"We should take nothing off the table. We (should) start off with
massive air attacks," King, a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives Homeland Security Committee, told NBC'S "Meet the
"I think doing them from aircraft carriers is limiting them. We
should use bases in the area so we can have much more sustained air
attacks. We should be aggressively arming the Kurds," King added.
Last week, Obama launched a campaign of U.S. air strikes and
humanitarian air drops in areas where militants, who have seized
large swathes of Iraq since June, are threatening religious
minorities and encroaching on Arbil, the capital of Iraq's
autonomous Kurdish region.
The moves are the first direct U.S. military action in Iraq since
Obama pulled U.S. troops out in 2011. Obama, who campaigned on
ending the long, bloody U.S. war there, has been reluctant to wade
back into Iraq. He has stressed the overall solution for the country
rests with Iraqi political leaders and is urging them to end
long-running feuds and form an inclusive government.
On Sunday, the U.S. military said U.S. planes had conducted air
strikes on Islamic State targets for the third straight day. The
latest strikes aimed to help Kurdish Peshmerga forces defend Arbil,
the site of a U.S. consulate and a U.S.-Iraqi joint military
The U.S. military's Central Command said drone aircraft and fighter
jets fired on armed vehicles and a mortar position belonging to
fighters from Islamic State, which is an offshoot of al Qaeda.
The State Department's announcement several hours later that it had
removed some staff from the nearby Arbil consulate showed U.S.
concern over the severity of the threat to U.S. personnel and to
Iraq's viability as a state.
In June, the United States moved some staff from the giant,
bunker-like U.S. embassy in Baghdad to Arbil, which previously had
been known for better security than the Iraqi capital, to the
southern city of Basra and to Amman, Jordan.
On Sunday, the department said it had sent "a limited number of
staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General
in Arbil to the Consulate General in Basra and the Iraq Support Unit
It did not say how many staff had left Arbil or how many remained.
About 40 U.S. military personnel are now in Arbil at a joint
U.S.-Iraq military operations center.
The White House is still grappling with political fallout from a
2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the
U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans.
[to top of second column]
Obama said on Saturday a top priority was to keep Americans safe,
adding, "We’re not moving our embassy anytime soon. We’re not moving
our consulate anytime soon."
Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican voice on
foreign policy, called for air strikes not only in Iraq but in
Syria, where the Islamic State has gained strength since the
conflict in Syria began in 2011. "They have erased the boundaries
between Iraq and Syria," McCain told the CNN program "State of the
McCain said he would be providing "as much training and equipment as
I can" to the Kurds and rushing equipment to Arbil.
"This is turning into - as we predicted for a long time - a regional
conflict which does pose a threat to the security of the United
States of America," said McCain, calling Obama's response to the
Iraqi crisis "clearly very, very ineffective, to say the least."
Appearing on the program "Fox News Sunday," Senator Lindsey Graham
of South Carolina, another prominent Republican critic of Obama's
foreign policy, said, "His responsibility as president is to defend
this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against (Islamic
State forces) ... they are coming here."
U.S. military aircraft have also dropped relief supplies to tens of
thousands of Yazidis who have gathered on Mount Sinjar, seeking
shelter from the insurgents.
Senator Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said the
United States should be trying to prevent genocide in Iraq while
also helping Kurds. But he said ultimately the Iraqi government
should provide security for its people, and that the United States
should not step up its use of military force.
(Additional reporting by Jason Lange and Patrick Rucker; Editing by
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.