Washington (CNN) – Ahead of a White House meeting Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner called on President Barack Obama to lay out a “broader strategy” for how to deal with sectarian violence in Iraq, but the Ohio Republican said the United States should “absolutely not” talk to Iranians about the crisis.
“I can just imagine what our friends in the region, our allies will be thinking by reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and foster terrorism not only in Syria, in Lebanon but in Israel as well,” Boehner told reporters after the House GOP weekly conference meeting.
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California, replied sarcastically when asked if there should be any effort to discuss any response with Iran. “Talking to Iran? Well let’s see, we got Russia to help us out in Syria, and now we’re going to have Iran help us out in Iraq?”
“It’s amazing, the way this country has gone the last couple of years is just mind boggling,” said McKeon, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “This President has just taken us right down the tubes.”
Boehner sidestepped a question about whether he supported airstrikes and said it’s up to the President to lay out what to do next.
“I’m looking for the overall strategy that will help secure the gains that we have made,” said Boehner
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, also declined to give any specific suggestions for what course the administration should pursue in Iraq, but insisted, “Absolutely, positively no boots on the ground.”
Meantime, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, spoke out forcefully against sending U.S. service members into the middle of sectarian strife. “This is an Iraqi civil war and it is time for Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” he said on the Senate floor.
“It is not worth the blood of American service members. It is not worth the monetary cost to the American taxpayer. Rather than spending trillions more refighting President George W. Bush’s war, how about we use that money to build and rebuild our nation’s roads and bridges.”
Reid chastised former Vice President Dick Cheney and other critics of the administration who are encouraging greater military involvement in Iraq. But he did not rule out the use of force, saying he has “no doubt that the President will meet this threat head on, without unnecessarily risking American lives.”
McKeon argued it was Obama, not his predecessor, who is to blame for the conditions in Iraq now, telling reporters he wasn’t surprised at the conditions now. “Who got us out of Iraq without an agreement without leaving a residual force to make sure this didn’t happen?”
McKeon also said he wasn’t sure the number of U.S. troops — approximately 275 – the President sent to protect the embassy in Baghdad were sufficient to guard the Americans there now.
Boehner repeated his criticism that Obama has been unresponsive to developments: “The President has been watching what we’ve been watching for over a year as a situation in Iraq continued to be undermined, yet nothing – nothing – has been done to try and reverse it. I’m hopeful I’ll hear something today.”
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