House Speaker John Boehner told President Barack Obama Tuesday he would support an aggressive U.S. campaign against Sunni Islamic extremists in the Middle East, including efforts to improve the Iraqi Army as well as training and providing military equipment to moderate Syrian opposition groups.
On the eve of Obama’s address to the nation tonight in which he will reveal his plans to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the president briefed Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., and the other three congressional leaders — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Boehner did not speak to reporters after the meeting, but aides to the speaker said he told Obama he “would support the president if he chose to deploy the military to help train and play an advisory role for the Iraqi Security Forces and assist with lethal targeting of” leaders of ISIS.
ISIS has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Obama has ordered air strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq, but has refrained from launching attacks against ISIS troops in Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad has crushed many of the more moderate Syrian opposition, but has been unable to destroy ISIS. U.S. officials have shown little interest in aiding Assad.
Suburban Columbus Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., has publicly said Obama has the authority to order air strikes, but he urged Obama to ensure congressional support and “lay out a clear, comprehensive plan.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said Obama must “come to Congress for ultimate approval of any military actions he takes.” Jordan urged Obama to “formulate a strategy and bring it to Congress,” although he made clear that ISIS “must be stopped.”
“This organization has murdered American journalists in gruesome fashion, and must be held accountable for such actions,” Jordan said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said “as we wait for the president to outline his long overdue strategy, ISIS is a growing danger to our national security, to our allies, and to innocent people across the Middle East.”
“The president must lay out a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS and put in place a longer-term strategy to ensure that ISIS and similar terrorist organizations do not continue to threaten global peace and stability,” Portman said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was more cautious, saying that while “we must protect American troops and citizens” in the region, “any intervention in Iraq must be limited in scope and cannot commit American troops to ground combat operations.”
“If the U.S. has the ability to provide targeted assistance that prevents genocide of religious minorities, we should help,” Brown said. “But we cannot allow the U.S. to be dragged into another war in Iraq.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, says the “administration must present a concrete and comprehensive strategy to combat ISIS and demonstrate a clear resolve to follow through.”
“Until such a broad strategic objective is established, it is impossible to reject or endorse isolated and hypothetical military action,” Turner said.