Obama’s Iraq Strategy Carries Domestic Political Risk

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By Janet Hook and Siobhan Hughes,

from The Wall Street Journal,

President Barack Obama’s decision to launch military strikes in Iraq is fraught with political risk, exposing him to criticism from both the right and the left at a time when opinion polls show his approval ratings—especially in foreign policy—have hit new lows.

Republican defense hawks generally supported the president’s action against Islamist militants that call themselves the Islamist State, but they said the group’s sudden rise in Iraq gave new force to their criticism that the administration’s foreign policy is too cautious and sparks instability abroad.

“Vital national interests are at stake, yet the White House has remained disengaged, despite warnings from Iraqi leaders, Congress and even members of its own administration,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio.)

Democratic congressional leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, rallied behind the president. But some other members of the president’s party recoiled at the prospect of resuming military action in Iraq, which they believed would undermine one of most sought-after accomplishments of the Obama presidency—the U.S. withdrawal from the country.

“I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the president’s actions in Iraq could become,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.).

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), a leading voice in the party’s liberal wing, said in a statement: “I remain concerned about possible unintended consequences of intervention. We must not get bogged down in another war in the Middle East.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) said he believed that Congress should vote on whether to authorize the military operation in Iraq. While the Islamist State “is a horrible group,” he said, “we have to realize that we are heading down the path of choosing sides in an ancient religious and sectarian war.”

In a symbolic measure of bipartisan anxiety over any renewed military involvement in Iraq, the House last month voted overwhelmingly—370 to 4—to approve a McGovern resolution that called for Congress to approve any further military deployment “in a sustained combat role.”

Republicans backed the military strikes, in many cases calling for additional action.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), … was one of the first to comment on the president’s action Thursday night. Mr. Rubio also offered a detailed call for more aggressive military action against the Islamist State—also known as ISIS—in an article published Friday in Time.

“If we do not continue to take decisive action against ISIS now, it will be not just Iraqis or Syrians who continue to suffer,” Mr. Rubio said. “It will likely be Americans, as a result of a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or on our personnel overseas.”

Vin Weber, a former Republican House member who was a foreign-policy adviser to GOP nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign, said that the situation wasn’t an easy issue for Republicans, because so many Americans—including many GOP voters—are in an anti-interventionist mood.

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