For weeks, Sen. John McCain has been putting pressure on President Barack Obama to take military action in Iraq to squash ISIS, a extremist Islamic group targeting a religious minority of Kurds for extermination. Now that President Obama has, the Arizona Republican thinks he still hasn’t gone far enough.
“Launching three strikes in an area around where a horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place … meanwhile ISIS continues to make gains everywhere, is very, very ineffective to say the least,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union”.
McCain scoffed at the president’s claims that the ongoing operations were limited to ending the humanitarian crisis on the ground and protecting American military personnel in the city of Irbil.
“That’s not a strategy, that’s not a policy. That is simply a very narrow and focused approach to a problem that is metastasizing as we speak,” McCain argued.
McCain called for further airstrikes, expanding into Syria, and for the U.S. to provide weapons and equipment to the Kurds.
He lamented a “vacuum of leadership” in the Middle East and claimed “we are paying for it.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who routinely echoes McCain’s sentiments on foreign affairs, made a similar case for an broader military campaign targeting Syria on “Fox News Sunday”.
“If we don’t hit ‘em in Syria you’ll never solve the problem in Iraq,” Graham said.
He called on President Obama to go on the offensive against “ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want guys want to call it,” while suggesting that the extremist group poses a “direct threat to our homeland.”
“You made many, many bad bets,” Graham said, as if he were directly addressing the president. “Your strategies are failing. You told us bin Laden is dead, we’re safe. Since bin Laden has died, there are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens with more money, with more weapons and more capabilities to attack the homeland than there was before 9/11. Mr. President, if you don’t adjust your strategy these people are coming here.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) was took a far less hawkish position on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “The bottom line is this: There is so much we can do to help the Iraqis help themselves,” he told host David Gregory, adding, “Because only Iraq can save Iraq.”
Also, according to Durbin, senators calling for military action in Syria shouldn’t hold their breath. “I can tell you this: Escalating it is not in the cards,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland also strongly disagreed with his Republican colleagues while appearing on “Fox News Sunday”.
“I don’t think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view from the use of our airstrikes. That’s not going to solve the problem. The fundamental problem is whether the Iraqis believe they have a representative government so that Sunnis feel comfortable with the government in Baghdad,” Cardin said.
He added: “There is not a U.S. military solution to this issue. We’re not going to use our military to take care of what the Iraqis should be taking care of.”
President Obama said on Saturday that targeted airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops could last for months.
“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said from the White House lawn before departing for a two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard with his family.
Still, the president was quick to reiterate that he will not be sending ground troops back to the region.
“Only Iraqis can ensure the stability and security of Iraq. The U.S. can’t do it for them, but we will support and be partners in that effort,” Obama said.
On Saturday, the U.S. dropped food and water for thousands of Iraqis living under the threat of ISIS. The bundles included 3,308 gallons of water and 16,128 ready-to-eat meals. A total of 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of water have been delivered to date by U.S. military aircraft.
Early on Sunday, the UK Ministry of Defense confirmed that a British military aircraft made its first airdrop of humanitarian aid in Iraq. The airdrop is part of a “continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations” around the Sinjar mountains according to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
U.S. aircraft also struck and destroyed four different armored trucks and a mortar position operated by ISIS on Sunday.
According to the U.N., at least 20,000 Iraqi civilians have been able to escape ISIS attacks due in part to U.S. actions.