Ambassador Lukman Faily said Iraq was facing a terrorist threat that was both “transnational in nature” and existential.
ISIS was the common enemy of Iraq, its neighbors, the U.S. and America’s allies, “and we must make a common effort to defeat them.”
Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Faily thanked the U.S. for what it has done thus far to support Iraq in its campaign against the jihadists, but urged it to consider airstrikes -- “to protect Iraqi borders against the further influx of terrorists from Syria.”
He also called for strikes against terrorist camps and supply convoys in remote areas, as well as precision airstrikes in urban areas controlled by terrorists.
“Let us all deal with the ISIL evil now before no amount of catch-by the U.S. and its allies can address the ISIL trail of devastation and chaos,” he said, pointing among other things to the jihadists’ targeting of Christians.
Faily described the enemy as “an unholy alliance of al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists and diehard Saddam loyalists. Contrary to what some would have you believe this is not a Sunni rebellion against a Shi’a government.”
“This is an all-out insurgency led by ISIL extremists who are committed to creating a terrorist safe haven in the heart of the Middle East that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea on the Syrian side to the most eastern Iraqi province of Diyala,” he said.
President Obama has dispatched hundreds of additional personnel to bolster security at the U.S. Embassy and the international airport in Baghdad, and also deployed 300 military advisors to support the Iraqi security forces.
At the same time the administration is pushing Iraq to speed up the setting up of an inclusive government, which would help to counter resentment by minority Sunnis that they are being marginalized by the Shi’ite majority.
Faily said progress was being made in that area, with the election last week of a parliamentary speaker and deputies, and the expected election on Wednesday of a president.
‘The time for that debate is now’
Earlier this month Reps. James McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) introduced a resolution calling for the withdrawal from Iraq – by the end of this year at the very latest – all U.S. troops apart from those needed to secure the embassy and diplomatic personnel.
Introducing the privileged resolution, McGovern said he would prefer to see the House debating a bill to authorize the military engagement in Iraq, but that was not happening.
“So, my colleagues and I are introducing this concurrent resolution because we strongly believe Congress has to step up to the plate and carry out its responsibilities when our servicemen and women are, once again, being sent into harm’s way,” he said.
“The time for that debate is now. Not when the first body bag comes home from Iraq. Not when the first U.S. airstrikes or bombs fall on Iraq. Not when we are embedded with Iraqi troops trying to take back an ISIS-held town.”
In its legislative schedule for this week, the office of the House Majority Leader has listed the McGovern-Lee-Jones resolution for “possible consideration” on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Last Wednesday more than 100 lawmakers put their names to a bipartisan letter organized by Reps. Lee and Scott Rigell (R-Va.), urging Obama to seek congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.
“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote.
“Members of Congress must consider all the facts and alternatives before we can determine whether military action would contribute to ending this most recent violence, create a climate for political stability, and protect civilians from greater harm.”
“I share a deep concern over the rise in sectarian violence in Iraq in recent weeks,” Rigell said in a statement. “However, engaging our military forces at this time when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that U.S. military assessment teams in Iraq have submitted a draft report on the situation on the ground.
“I know my colleagues at the Defense Department are looking at it to determine the best way to assist the Iraqi government,” she said. “We’re very committed to that.”