Obama Calls on Congress to Support Airstrikes in Syria, Says America Will Lead Coalition Against ISIS

Posted: Sep 10, 2014 9:35 PM

Speaking from the White House Wednesday evening, President Obama called on Congress (but did not ask for authorization) to support new airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and arming fighters in those countries. He is ordering 400 more American advisors to Iraq to help fighters on the ground with strategy and said the United States will lead a broad coalition against the terror army overseas. He also issued reassurances that America will not get "dragged into another ground war in Iraq," snuffing out the possibility for U.S. ground troops. 

"America will lead a broad coalition to hold back this threat," Obama said. "If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States."

When President George W. Bush went into Iraq in 2003, he had a coalition of 36 countries. President Obama currently has nine.

In terms of describing the threat ISIS poses to the United States directly, Obama didn't give new details and tried to calm American fears by saying country is safe. He said the objective is clear, to "destroy and degrade ISIL."

"If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven," he said. "The United States is meeting them with strength and resolve."  

"This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years," he added.

Obama also touted Yemen and Somalia as anti-terror success stories, claims that are at best questionable. He also made sure the world knew the distinction between ISIS and Islam as a whole and would not classify the terror army as Islamic.

"ISIL is not Islamic," he said.

UPDATE: The White House has issued a fact sheet about Obama's ISIS strategy.

Supporting Effective Governance in Iraq: We have made clear that additional U.S. action depended on Iraq forming an inclusive government, because only a united Iraq -- with a government in Baghdad that has support from all of Iraq’s communities -- can defeat ISIL. A new Iraqi government was formally sworn in on September 8 and we will support it in efforts to govern inclusively and to take significant, concrete steps to address the legitimate grievances and needs of all Iraqis.

Denying ISIL Safe-Haven: The Iraqi Government is taking the fight to ISIL, and will ultimately be the one to defeat it in Iraq. But our Iraqi and regional partners need our support and unique capabilities to blunt ISIL’s advance. The President announced that we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. The President also made clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. The President will not hesitate to take direct military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria and in Iraq. We will degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistical and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks. Simply put, ISIL will find no safe-haven.

Building Partner Capacity: We will build the capability and capacity of our partners in the region to sustain an effective long-term campaign against ISIL. The President announced that he will send an additional 475 U.S. service members to Iraq to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. In addition to providing weapons, ammunition and equipment, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) will train and advise Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces, improving their ability to plan, lead and conduct operations against ISIL. Further, the new Iraqi government has asked for help forming National Guard units that would be recruited locally and be responsible for protecting their own communities and securing areas freed from ISIL's control - a step that, along with long overdue political reforms, can drive a wedge between ISIL and Sunnis who have been alienated by their central government.
Enhancing Intelligence Collection on ISIL: Continuing to gain more fidelity on ISIL’s capabilities, plans, and intentions is central to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the group. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance flights and other important efforts will strengthen our ability to understand this threat, as well as to share vital information with our Iraqi and other regional partners to enable them to effectively counter ISIL.

Disrupting ISIL’s Finances: ISIL’s expansion over the past year has given it access to significant and diverse sources of funding. The U.N. Security Council resolution that passed unanimously in August demonstrated the broad international consensus to disrupt ISIL’s finances. We are already working aggressively with our partners on a coordinated approach that includes: reducing ISIL’s revenue from oil and assets it has plundered; limiting ISIL’s ability to extort local populations; stemming ISIL’s gains from kidnapping for ransom; and disrupting the flow of external donations to the group. Our domestic laws also provide additional tools in this effort, enabling us to sanction or prosecute those who fund ISIL’s activities.

Exposing ISIL’s True Nature: Clerics around the world have spoken up in recent weeks to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy, condemning the group’s barbarity and criticizing its self- proclaimed “caliphate.” We will work with our partners throughout the Muslim world to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy and counter its false claim to be acting in the name of religion.

Disrupting the Flow of Foreign Fighters: Foreign terrorist fighters are ISIL’s lifeblood, and a global security threat—with citizens of nearly 80 countries filling its ranks. Over 100 foreign fighters from the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to the conflict. On September 24, the United States will convene an historic Summit-level meeting of the UN Security Council, focused on this issue.

Protecting the Homeland: We will continue to use the criminal justice system as a critical tool in our counterterrorism toolbox. Federal criminal laws provide a sound basis to prosecute those who provide material support to ISIL or who conspire with ISIL to plot attacks at home or abroad. With respect to aviation security, we will work with air carriers to implement responsible threat-based security and screening requirements, and provide additional screening to individuals suspected of affiliation with ISIL. Finally, we will counter violent extremism here at home, including tailored domestic programs to prevent violent extremism and radicalization in order to intervene with at-risk individuals before they become radicalized toward violence and decide to travel abroad to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL.

Humanitarian Support: We and our partners will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced and vulnerable in Iraq and Syria. We will also continue to work with host governments to mitigate the humanitarian and economic effects of the conflict in neighboring countries, recognizing that the refugee crisis calls on our common humanity and presents a significant challenge to regional stability. As ISIL seeks to destroy the diversity of the territories it terrorizes, we will continue to work to help prevent mass atrocities, particularly against vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities.

This post has been updated.