Will Democrats support Obama if he authorizes Iraq strikes?

posted at 12:31 pm on June 12, 2014 by Noah Rothman

To say that asking congressional Democrats to support renewed American military engagement in Iraq is problematic would be a dramatic understatement. Nevertheless, with ISIS rebels rapidly capturing towns and cities across Iraq, and a siege on Baghdad possible if not imminent, President Barack Obama is facing increasing pressure to consent the an Iraqi government’s request to carry out airstrikes on Islamic militant positions.

Would congressional Democrats support such a move?

In an appearance on MSNBC on Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) was asked what it would take for her to support airstrikes on rebel targets in Iraq. She said that she needs to review the details of how broad the scope of those airstrikes would be, what tools would be used, and how effective strikes might be at neutralizing the threat. That said, however, she seemed open to the prospect of new military action in Iraq.

“Lives were lost and, in part, to try and secure Iraq as a stable nation,” Speier said. “Restoring stability there, I think, is in our country’s best interest.

Appearing on CNN on Thursday, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), a Democrat who voted in favor of the resolution which authorized the use of force in Iraq in 2002, expressed serious reservations about reengaging in military operations in Iraq.

“I would be very, very reluctant to dive back into that,” Smith said of renewed operations in Iraq. “Are the al-Qaeda militants in Iraq threatening the U.S. in some way? Otherwise, we’d be being dragged into a war in a very difficult to predict way.”

When CNN anchor Carol Costello said that the threat to Iraqi refineries will increase the pressure on global oil markets and, thus, harm American interests, Smith clarified his caveat.

“What I was referring to was whether or not we’re talking about al-Qaeda militants who would then be plotting and planning to directly attack western targets like even the homeland,” he said. “That’s the big threat that we have to be concerned about.”

Update: In an appearance on MSNBC with host Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) urged the president to “put a plan on the table” and allow Congress to vote on a proposal for what to do in Iraq. “I would strongly recommend that the administration come to Congress very, very soon, and put some options on the table of what we should be able to do,” he said.

While he did not say whether he would or would not support contingency operations in Iraq to suppress the ISIS insurgency, he stressed his interest in seeing how the president would like to approach this issue soon. Kaine added that this Iraq conflict is an offshoot of the Syrian civil war.


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