Sen. Durbin: 'Only Iraq Can Save Iraq'; Rep. King: 'We Can't Wait'

By Susan Jones | August 11, 2014 | 7:58 AM EDT

Sailors work at sunset on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 in the Persian Gulf.  (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

( - Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says there are limits to the U.S. military intervention in Iraq, "Because only Iraq can save Iraq."

But Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) says the U.S. should not wait for the Iraqi government to get its act together: "Why wait months and months before the Iraq government is back in place? Every day that goes by, ISIS builds up in strength."

Both men appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Durbin said he supports the humanitarian mission and the effort to protect Americans in Iraq, and he said he also agrees with President Obama that the U.S. must not send troops.

"Well, there's no question that this ISIS threat in Syria and in Iraq is growing and troublesome," Durbin said. "The big question is what can the United States do to stop it? If the Iraqis come together, oust Maliki, put in someone in power who wants to bring in Sunnis and Shias to govern with the Kurds, then perhaps they can do it themselves. But we cannot send the troops, we must not sent the troops."

What if limited U.S. air power doesn't work, NBC's David Gregory asked Durbin:

"Well, I can tell you this. Escalating it is not in the cards. Neither the American people nor Congress are in the business of wanting to escalate this conflict beyond where it is today. I think the President's made it clear this is a limited strike. He has, I believe, most Congressional support for that at this moment. To go beyond is really going to be a challenge.

Durbin said it's enough for the U.S. to go in with "surgical precision" and a "clear goal of success."

But Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, told "Meet the Press" that a limited mission is not enough. King would like to see "massive air attacks" as well as the arming of the Kurds.

"ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America," King said. "What Dick Durbin just said and what President Obama has said, is really a shameful abdication of American leadership. This isn't Iraq we're talking about. And we can't wait until Maliki and the Iraqi parliament fight ISIS.

"Every day that goes by, ISIS builds up this caliphate, and it becomes a direct threat to the United States. They are more powerful now than al-Qaeda was on 9-11. So Dick Durbin says we're not going to do this, we're not going to do that. I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States.

King said he lost friends and constituents on 9-11, and doesn't want it to happen again: "We've seen this coming. And so for the president to say, 'We're doing air strikes, we're not doing anything else, we're not going to use American combat troops, we're not going to do this, we're not going to do that,' what kind of leadership is that?"

Iraq was stable when the war ended, King said, but then Obama withdrew all American troops: "That's when the Iraqi Army started to disintegrate, when we lost control over Maliki because we withdrew. That's what started. There's no reason why Iraq would not have worked. The president, he started this. He started this downfall in 2011 with the direct withdrawal of American troops."

ISIS is well armed and well financed and has hundreds of foreign fighters who will try to attack the United States when they return home. "That's the reality," King said."

"All we talked about is ending the war in Iraq. All we ended was American influence in Iraq. And that's a failure and its on his (Obama's) hands. And for him to-- what a weak leader!'We're going to attack this, but we're not going to do that. We're going to do this, we're not going to do that.' Can you imagine Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt--or Harry Truman--"

King advocates supplying the Kurds with weapons, without waiting for the Maliki government to reach a compromise with other Iraqi factions: "Let's start now," he said.

On Monday, the Associated Press quoted senior U.S. official as saying that the Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq.