President Barack Obama met with Congressional leaders on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing unrest in Iraq as Republicans continue to blame him for allowing militants to take control of large swaths of territory north of Baghdad.
The president invited House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the White House to brief the lawmakers on the turmoil.
“The President provided an update on the Administration’s efforts to respond to the threat from [the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] by urging Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian agendas and to come together with a sense of national unity,” the White House said in a readout of the closed-door meeting. “He also reviewed our efforts to strengthen the capacity of Iraq’s security forces to confront the threat from ISIL, including options for increased security assistance.”
Earlier in the day, press secretary Jay Carney indicated that the only decision the president has made at this point is that U.S. troops will not be sent into combat in Iraq.
Some members of Congress have urged the president to launch air strikes to support Iraqi security forces, though officials say the president has not made a final decision. In the meeting, Obama pledged “to continue consulting closely with Congress,” according to the readout.
Pelosi said she does not believe the president needs approval from Congress to pursue the options for security assistance discussed during the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, Boehner said he hoped to hear a “ broader strategy for how we help keep the freedom that we paid dearly for, for the people of Iraq.”
Breaking with some in his own party, though, the Ohio Republican said he’s adamantly opposed to coordination with Iran in addressing the crisis.
“I can just imagine what our friends in the region – our allies – would be thinking by [the United States] reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and foster terrorists not only in Syria, in Lebanon, but in Israel as well,” Boehner said.
McConnell said he hoped the current turmoil in Iraq will persuade the president to reconsider the troop drawdown that will take place in Afghanistan over the next two years.
"It [Iraq] certainly underscores the significance of the president reversing the decision he previously indicated he had made for us to leave Afghanistan entirely," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "We know that if we don't leave behind a deployment that the military recommended in Afghanistan, roughly 10,000 troops, for counterterrorism purposes and training purposes, we're likely to see the same kind of meltdown in Afghanistan that we've seen in Iraq."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, largely credited as being one of the chief advocates for invading Iraq, joined Congressional Republicans in the slamming Obama on Wednesday, announcing a new foreign policy group “Alliance for a Strong America.”
"To the architects of the Iraq War, who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say 'thanks but no thanks,'" Reid shot back. "Unfortunately we already tried it your way, and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country."