U.S. President Barack Obama appeared to throw down the gauntlet to Congress on the Iraq crisis on Wednesday, saying in a private meeting to select lawmakers that >he did not require any new congressional authority for possible military intervention in that country.
Reports quoting government officials said that Mr. Obama however appeared to be “leaning toward sending roughly 100 special forces into the region... a contingent [that] presumably would be sent to help train the Iraqi military and boost intelligence available to the Iraqis.”
His remarks, which come after a week of unprecedented sectarian violence fomented by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant outfit, were however softened by his admission to the Congressmen that “targeted airstrikes would be difficult to quickly execute against ISIS,” according to unnamed aides quoted in the media.
Even as Mr. Obama addressed the Congressmen and Senators behind closed doors, news surfaced that the >Iraqi government had asked Washington to conduct air strikes on ISIS targets as they moved to assume full control of the country’s largest oil refinery and fought to hold on to the city of Tal Afar.
Reports indicated that the President had said to meeting attendees at the White House that in order to ensure that an attack works, the U.S. needed stronger intelligence concerning the whereabouts of ISIS members. Officials with knowledge of the meeting also reportedly said that he had concerns that airstrikes may cause civilian causalities and fail to change political problems in Iraq.
Although he apparently did not rule out airstrikes “indefinitely,” he portrayed them as “not an imminent option,” according to an aide quoted in the Huffington Post .
In parallel White House Spokesman Jay Carney said that the administration was considering a range of options and, “The only thing the president has ruled out is sending troops back into combat in Iraq.”
The President’s statements on Wednesday reflected same-day remarks by Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said to a Senate panel that “until we can clarify this intelligence picture,” the U.S. would have difficulty knowing who it would be attacking from the air, hinting that there was military and political reluctance to return to Iraqi airspace.