President Barack Obama met with the top four congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq due to growing violence by the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The White House provided this readout:
President Obama met today with Senate Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, Democratic Leader Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader McConnell to discuss the situation in Iraq. The President provided an update on the Administration’s efforts to respond to the threat from ISIL by urging Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian agendas and to come together with a sense of national unity. He also reviewed our efforts to strengthen the capacity of Iraq’s security forces to confront the threat from ISIL, including options for increased security assistance. He asked each of the leaders for their view of the current situation and pledged to continue consulting closely with Congress going forward.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that it was the fault of the president’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq that paved the way for the havoc. He provided the following statement:
ISIL is a lethal, violent terrorist force, and its activities in Syria and Iraq represent a grave threat to U.S. Interests. The President briefed us on the approach he’s taking toward developing a strategy for Iraq. Unfortunately, Iraqi security forces are now less capable than when the President withdrew the entirety of our force without successfully negotiating a remaining U.S. presence capable of preserving our gains and mentoring our partners. It is critical that we protect Americans, our allies and our interests– and that we learn from the situation in Iraq as the President begins the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The offices of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) didn’t comment on the closed-door meeting.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she “was pleased the President reiterated his assurances that he will not send U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.” She added, “I do not believe the President needs any further legislative authority to pursue the particular options for increased security assistance discussed today.”
Notably, neither McConnell nor other GOP leaders, though critical of Obama, haven’t suggested a way forward, placing the onus on the president when asked.
So far Obama has decided to send 275 U.S. troops to Iraq to protect
the American embassy and American diplomatic interests but said he won’t
send back ground troops to engage in combat.