Islamic State Airstrikes in Syria: House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Lawmakers Support Airstrike Decision
Following the first airstrikes to combat the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), militant group in Syria, congressional leaders have issued their first comments on the issue while continuing their recess.
As confirmed by the Obama administration, the U.S. and a coalition of Arab countries conducted airstrikes in Syria on Monday night. The Arab coalition comprised of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. During a press call about the airstrikes, a senior administration official said the situation is not a battle between the U.S. and ISIL but also "between the people of the region, the governments of the region, and the threat posed by this terrorist organization, which has overwhelmingly killed Muslims, and poses a threat not just the U.S. but to our Arab partners."
The senior administration official noted the overall coalition, including European nations, against ISIL has different strategies. The official said some countries will be engaged in airstrikes, "kinetic action, training and equipping Iraqi security forces and Syrian opposition forces and help stop funding to ISIL.
Congressional lawmakers have also commented on the first Syrian airstrikes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, issued his support of Obama's action to "degrade and destroy" ISIL.
"As President Obama said, this is not our fight alone. The presence of Arab nations in these airstrikes and President Obama's commitment that we will not use U.S. ground forces in combat are clear evidence that President Obama will not repeat the mistakes of the past," said Reid. "As we move forward, I expect consultations between the administration and Congress to continue."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, didn't directly state he support of Obama in his statement but said the president was "right" to inform Americans on the military's actions.
"As part of the overall plan presented to the President last week by General Austin at U.S. Central Command headquarters, our military and coalition allies took the initial steps last night to attack targets within Syria. These strikes against ISIL and the engagement of our regional allies are important steps in defeating ISIL and I support these ongoing efforts. The President is right to keep the country and Congress updated on military and diplomatic efforts-just as it will be important for the President to update on how the air campaign will fit into the overall strategy to destroy ISIL."
Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH, also commented to support Obama. He said, "ISIL is a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States and our allies. I support the airstrikes launched by the president, understanding that this is just one step in what must be a larger effort to destroy and defeat this terrorist organization."
In a joint statement, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, "commend" Obama's order to strike ISIL and the Khorasan Group in Syria. The senators also commend the U.S. military for the "skill and courage" to carry out the operation. Graham and McCain agreed to "salute" the Arab countries that participated in the airstrike efforts, but they noted a "long, difficult campaign" remains.
Graham and McCain also criticized the Obama administration for its policy "contradiction" of combatting ISIL first while Syria President Bashar Al-Assad remains in office.
"The sooner the Administration wakes up to this reality the better," said Graham and McCain in the joint statement. "It must recognize that it is neither effective nor moral to train and equip thousands of Syrians to fight ISIS, but make no commitment to defend them from Assad's continued air strikes and barrel bombs."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, also said he supports Obama's decision to strike ISIL facilities in Syria. According to Rubio, he has "argued for months" that Obama has the authority to challenge threats against the U.S.
"Defeating this menace to all who value freedom and tolerance will not be easy, but is essential to our security," added Rubio. "My thoughts and prayers are with our men and women in uniform carrying out their duties as part of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services, did not mention Obama in her statement. She still provided support of U.S. action in Syria. Shaheen said the airstrikes in Syria send a message that the U.S. and allies will fight terrorists "wherever" they're located.
"I have supported and will continue to support aggressive action to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and I am encouraged that the United States was joined in this mission by Middle East partner nations. We must continue to build a strong international coalition to defeat this terrorist group," Shaheen said.
According to the Obama administration, over 40 countries are involved with the U.S. in the coalition against ISIL. On Wednesday, Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly to further encourage countries to combat extremist Islamic threats. Obama speech followed by him presiding a Security Council session that included the unanimous passage of a resolution to address the "surge" of foreign terrorist fighters.
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