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Tags: obama | plan | eliminate | syria | safe | haven

Obama Plans to Eliminate ISIS' Syria Safe Haven

Tuesday, 09 September 2014 03:46 PM EDT

President Barack Obama is preparing to ask Congress to pay for a multi-billion-dollar plan to expand the military campaign against Islamic State militants, according to an administration official.

The planned request hasn’t been made final. While the total amount is still being calculated, it will likely be in the billions of dollars, as Pentagon officials review options, according to the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss plans that aren’t yet public.

Obama plans to deliver a televised address to the nation at 9 p.m. Washington time tomorrow to lay out his strategy to defeat the extremist group Islamic State, which has captured swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The administration has been under pressure from lawmakers to articulate a plan for dealing with Islamic State, which has swept across Iraq and carried out a campaign of terror, including beheading two U.S. journalists. The U.S. has conducted more than 150 airstrikes inside Iraq to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces roll back some of the Islamic State gains, according to the Pentagon.

The president’s speech will be a broad outline of his strategy without providing details such as how much it would cost or how long it would last, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Safe Haven

“The president will make his case firmly on what he believes is in the best interest of the people of the United States,” he told reporters today. The plan won’t include ground troops and the president “doesn’t want to be the commander in chief of the Iraqi air force,” he said.

A key goal of Obama’s plan would be eliminating what Earnest described as “a virtual safe haven” that the Islamic State enjoys in Syria. He declined to say if Obama would authorize strikes on targets inside Syria.

The administration wants to send the budget package supporting a broad military mission to Congress before lawmakers recess later this month to go home and campaign for the midterm elections, the official said.

The components of the request, which is still being worked on by the Office of Management and Budget, assume increased airstrikes and money to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling the Islamic militants. Funds also would be earmarked for support of Syrians moderates.

Military Spending

The package would involve direct military spending, such as munitions to carry out airstrikes and indirect spending, such as countries furnishing military equipment by requiring U.S. forces for transport.

In an interview last weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, Obama said he would be “asking Congress to make sure that they understand and support what our plan is. And it’s going to require some resources, I suspect, above what we are currently doing.”

Earnest said that Obama’s advisers are in “intensive consultations” with Congress on the cost and the topic would be discussed with congressional leaders visiting the White House today.

A congressional vote on funding would show support for efforts to take on Islamic State forces without committing the administration to ask for an explicit authorization for military action or requiring lawmakers to vote for that.

Obama will be speaking a year to the day after he pulled the U.S. from the brink of a military strike on Syria, after it became clear he didn’t have congressional support for action.

Several Republican lawmakers said the situation has changed and that they would support the president if he comes to Congress seeking authorization to broaden U.S. involvement in the fight against Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIL.

Bipartisan Support

“He would get a large bipartisan vote” of support, Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said. “It’s to his advantage to get as many fingerprints on the decision as possible.”

Cole called the vote “a no-brainer. If you can’t unite the world or Congress against ISIL, I mean, really?”

House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to join House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for a meeting with Obama this afternoon in the Oval Office. The discussion will give Obama a chance to preview his thinking and gauge congressional reaction.

Public Sentiment

Nine out of 10 Americans regards Islamic State as a serious threat to U.S. interests, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released today. Sixty-five percent back extending U.S. air strikes against the Sunni extremists into Syria, according to the poll conducted Sept. 4-7, more than double the level of support from a year ago.

Obama withdrew his request for authorization to conduct strikes on Syria a year ago after it became clear that he didn’t have support in Congress. His announcement also followed the U.K. Parliament’s rejection of Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to participate in military action against Bashar al- Assad’s regime in Syria.

Obama in June asked Congress to approve for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 $500 million to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels fight Assad part of a $1.5 billion plan for a Regional Stabilization Initiative that also would aid neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Presidential Authority

Obama and other administration officials have repeatedly said the president has the authority he needs for the current campaign of air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

The U.S. military probably can continue with the air campaign without seeking additional money from Congress for now by shifting money in its $85 billion Overseas Contingency Operations account.

Stan Collender, executive vice president of Quorvis MSLGroup and a former congressional budget staff member, said the defense department has been complaining of a budget squeeze.

“The Pentagon has been screaming about tight budgets all year and, depending on the request, will likely say it can’t be accommodated at current spending levels,” Collender said. “If it did otherwise, the Pentagon’s previous complaints would sound like the boy crying wolf.”

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

President Barack Obama is preparing to ask Congress to pay for a multi-billion-dollar plan to expand the military campaign against Islamic State militants, according to an administration official. The planned request hasn't been made final. While the total amount is still...
obama, plan, eliminate, syria, safe, haven
Tuesday, 09 September 2014 03:46 PM
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