President Obama on Sunday evening said the United States “underestimated” the capability ISIS possessed to grow in Syria during the chaos of that nation’s bloody civil war.
In the CBS interview, the president, though admitting that his administration “overestimated” the Iraqi military’s capability to deal with the threat of ISIS inside its own borders, said ”America leads … we are the indispensable nation; when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow, they call us.”
“That’s how we roll,” Obama said.The President’s remarks on “60 Minutes” come as airstrikes on ISIS continue in Iraq and Syria. On Sunday, the Pentagon released new video that officials say show attacks on an ISIS checkpoint and an ISIS-held modular oil refinery, both near Syria’s border with Turkey. NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reports that ISIS sells crude oil produced at such refineries, along with gasoline and other oil products, to fund its terror network possibly raising as much as $3 million daily.
Obama noted that while part of the solution to the ISIS problem will be carried out militarily, America must also “come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria,” and that those political solutions must satisfy both Sunni and Shia Muslim populations in the Middle East. The president said the rift between Sunni and Shia is the “biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world.”
However, the president stressed, “this is not America against ISIL, this is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership with to make sure that they are able to take care of their business.” The beginning of a solution for the Middle East: teaching their youth the value of education, and that, he said is “going to take some time.”
House Speaker John Boehner earlier Sunday said Obama’s plan for fighting back against ISIS will not work, adding that the United States will have “no choice” but to send in ground forces if other allied nations fail to put their own boots on the ground.
Speaking to ABC News, the top Republican in the House told George Stephanopoulos, ”If the goal is to destroy ISIS as the president says it is, I don’t believe the strategy that he outlined will accomplish that.” The Speaker went to to say it would take “more than airstrikes to drive [ISIS] out of there.”
“At some point,” he continued, “somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.”
When asked if those boots should be American military forces, the Speaker at first side-stepped a direct answer. “The President doesn’t want to do that,” Boehner said. “If I were the president, I probably wouldn’t have talked about what I wouldn’t do.” The Speaker continued, “Now maybe we can get enough of these forces trained and get them on the battlefield, but somebody’s boots have to be there.”
When pressed again and asked directly if no other nation would provide ground troops, will American forces have to move in to fight ISIS directly, Speaker Boehner said, “We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us.” The Ohio Republican then concluded, “And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re going to pay the price.”
The Speaker also made some predictions about his party’s chances in this fall’s midterms saying he thinks the Republicans will grow their majority in the House, and when asked if he thinks the GOP will win the Senate, Boehner answered flatly, “I do.”
Across the weekend, officials say there were eight strikes in Syria and four in Iraq. The U.S. Navy and Air Force both participated in the operations, along with the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. No casualties were reported among any U.S. or allied forces.
Among the targets hit were ISIS tanks and armored vehicles, modular refineries, an ISIS safe house and several ISIS checkpoints, according to CENTCOM.