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4 Things To Know About Obama’s Islamic State Strategy


President Obama is set to meet congressional leaders this afternoon to outline his strategy for confronting the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria. He is scheduled to address the nation on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. to make that strategy public.

Here's a look at several commentators on what the strategy might entail:

It Will Be Cautious

The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes: "Yes, Obama does seem to have a strategy, and it gets pretty good marks from allies abroad. But many components aren't ready yet, and some aren't fully conceptualized.

"Obama's decision-making on Iraq and Syria has been the policy equivalent of the wariness that Abraham Lincoln famously characterized, in referring to Gen. George McClellan, as 'the slows,'" Ignatius writes. "Obama still worries about the potential costs of getting it wrong; he needs to focus more on getting it right, including building political support at home.

It Will Be Different

The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib says that Obama will stress how his this time, it will be different — regional players will need to have 'skin in the game':

"[He] will say this fight will be different from the ones his predecessor launched in Iraq and Afghanistan," Seib writes. "The soldiers on the front line this time, he will say, will have to be the very Sunni Arabs threatened by Islamic State's rise, not American troops sent to save them from it. That, he will imply, is the smart, not the stupid, way to take on the challenge."

It Will Be Complex

Doyle McManus, writing for The Los Angeles Times:

"Recognizing the threat is easier than addressing it, though. The strategy, which Obama aides admit they are still 'building out,' has a daunting list of moving parts.

"It depends on Iraq's balky politicians to form a new government that can attract support from aggrieved Sunni Muslims.

"Then it requires organizing an international coalition against the Sunni-led Islamic State that includes Arab governments in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq, whose leaders mostly loathe one another."

And, It Will Take A Long Time

The New York Times says:

"The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq.

The next phase ... is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes.

The final, toughest and most politically controversial phase of the operation — destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria — might not be completed until the next administration. Indeed, some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months."

UPDATE:  (AP) The White House says Obama will speak from the State Floor at 9 p.m. EDT. The White House says he will discuss the threat posed by the Islamic State militants and a strategy for "degrading and ultimately destroying'' the group.
Ahead of his address, Obama is meeting with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday. Officials have said the president is seeking "buy-in'' from lawmakers but they have not specified whether Obama will seek an authorization for use of force.
The U.S. is already launching airstrikes against militants in Iraq, actions taken at the invitation of the Iraqi government and without congressional authorization.

UPDATE (AP)- The top Senate Republican says President Barack Obama should seek congressional approval for whatever he decides to do against Islamic State militants.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that seeking congressional approval would be good for the president and for the country.
Lawmakers have been divided over whether Obama needs fresh approval to carry out attacks against the militants, who have been expanding their hold on parts of Iraq and Syria.
McConnell said it would benefit both Obama and the country to have Congress buy into U.S. operations.
The Kentucky Republican made his remarks shortly before he and other congressional leaders headed to the White House, where Obama was meeting with them to discuss his strategy for defeating the militants.