National Security

McCain Lacks Confidence in Obama’s Response to ISIL Crisis

Calls for president to act decisively as crisis escalates

Demonstrators chant pro-al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as they carry al Qaeda flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul
Demonstrators chant pro-al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as they carry al Qaeda flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul / AP

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) urged President Barack Obama to speed up his decision making process in regard to the escalating crisis in Iraq Wednesday during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.

McCain expressed little confidence in the way the president has handled the crisis thus far as he and retired U.S. Army general Jack Keane discussed the impact of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advancements toward the Iraq capital Baghdad and its capture of Mosul and Tikrit.

"I think we would all agree, this situation is dire," McCain said

Both McCain and Keane acknowledged the president has tough choices to make and said Obama’s ruling out the possibility of using U.S. ground forces to combat ISIL advancements was the right move.

"We know that’s not a viable option," McCain said about sending ground troops.

Options are limited due to strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which was partially blamed on the Obama administration’s handling of the Iraq war.

"This is the culmination of a number of failed policies and decisions that led up to it," McCain said. "There are no good options right now, but the worst option is to do nothing."

ISIL is a Sunni Islamic al Qaeda offset, set on subverting the Iraqi democratic government into a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Syria and Iraq.

The anti-government group took Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city, on June 10. The next day it took Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

"The United States should offer decisive military assistance," Keane said, adding that the cities ISIL had claimed need to be retaken.

To do so, both encouraged the use of airstrikes in the regions where ISIL had taken root. Obama is reportedly still weighing that option.

Keane said the strikes would need to be highly accurate to eliminate the possibility of harming civilians and conducted through the coordination of special ground forces and air forces.

He said strikes could hit within 30 meters of the target.

McCain said the president hadn’t made clear to the American public how much U.S. national security interests are vested in how the situation in Iraq unfolds.

"Americans, I believe, are very intelligent and will respond positively if the situation is laid out for them," McCain said.

Throughout the discussion, McCain showed special concern over the president’s "flying out for golf games" while meetings had been held to address important issues such as the security situation in Iraq.