Congress returns to Capitol Hill this week after a month long recess and Congressional leaders are expected to hear President Obama make his case on Tuesday for military action in Iraq amid concerns that large sections of northeast Syria northwest Iraq have fallen under control of Islamic State and become dominated by an Islamist agenda that aims to extend its power grab across the region by capturing oil fields, damns, and unleashing terror through beheadings, crucifixions, and kidnappings as Iraq’s nascent government in Baghdad is in transition and a violent war rages on in neighboring Syria.
The political landscape of Iraq has dramatically changed over the span of one month when Congress was last in session. President Obama has authorized rounds of U.S. air strikes against Islamic State targets to protect Americans working in Erbil in northern Iraq, prevent a genocide against ethnic and religious minorities, and allow Kurdish peshmerga fighters to regain control over the Mosul damn, the largest damn in Iraq.
Two American journalists were beheaded during the past month in a chilling video that was broadcast over the internet by Islamic State in retaliation for American intervention in Iraq as war-weary Americans reposition themselves for more military intervention in Iraq led by a U.S. president who campaigned on pulling back from Iraq after Americans showed overwhelming disapproval and turned against President Bush’s occupation of Iraq that fell short of creating an open democracy, cost trillions of U.S. dollars, and took the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers.
Over the week-end, President Obama met with new Meet The Press host Chuck Todd after spending last week in Europe attending a NATO Summit whose NATO members are still coming to terms with two major geo-political challenges in Ukraine and Iraq and calls from Obama to build an international coalition to deal with the rise of Islamic State.
Obama sounded optimistic after attending the NATO Summit, saying “the entire international community understands that this is something that has to be dealt with.”
As of today no other major NATO country except the U.S. has signed up to participate in military airstrikes across northern Iraq.
The only air campaigns that other NATO countries have supported are humanitarian airdrops to Iraq’s besieged Yazidi community on Mount Sinjar that were intended to provide relief and avoid a genocide from Islamic State militants who threatened to annihilate the minority group.
After large areas of northwestern Iraq have fallen under control of Islamic State, Obama has been facing criticism by Republicans and even some Democrats for stating two weeks ago that he had “no strategy yet” for dealing with Islamic State in Syria, a base of control for the resurgent terrorist group, which followed comments from U.S. General Martin Dempsey about Islamic State can’t be defeated without addressing “both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border” between Iraq and Syria.
Obama said on Meet the Press that when he speaks to Americans during an address on Wednesday night he doesn’t plan to make an announcement for U.S. ground troops and wants to help Americans understand the nature of the threat from Islamic State and how we’re going to deal with it.
“This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war. What this is is similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years, Obama said.
“And the good news is is that because of American leadership, we have I believe, a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem” Obama continued.
Obama explained that the United States will continue to support Kurdish troops to reclaim territory that was taken from them by Islamic State and defeat the radical Islamic group by systematically degrading their capabilities and shrinking the territory they control.
Obama pointed out that the United States supports the Syrian Free Army and a moderate Sunni opposition in Syria that they can work with.
Later in the interview, Obama dismissed claims made by some U.S. politicians and war strategists who have urged him to immediately send in U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria to defeat Islamic State.
“But you also cannot, over the long term or even the medium term, deal with this problem by having the United States serially occupy various countries all around the Middle East. We don’t have the resources” Obama said.
“It puts enormous strains on our military. And at some point, we leave. And then things blow up again..” Obama added.
* Correction- Capitol Hill was briefly misspelled earlier this morning and listed incorrectly as Capital Hill