Boehner: Obama needs to explain ‘overall strategy’ on Iraq

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wants President Obama to detail an “overall strategy” for Iraq when he meets with congressional leaders Wednesday about the country’s deteriorating security situation.

Boehner, speaking to reporters at the Capitol, deflected a question about whether he would support U.S. military strikes to help the struggling Iraqi military fend off advancing forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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“What I’m hoping to hear from the president today is the broader strategy for how we help keep the freedom that we paid dearly for the people of Iraq,” Boehner said.

“There’s more than one step here,” he continued. “I’m looking for the overall strategy that’ll help secure the gains that were made.”

Obama has dispatched 275 U.S. troops to Iraq to help protect U.S. facilities but has ruled out the use of ground forces. The White House signaled Wednesday he would not imminently announce the launch of airstrikes to target the militant group.

The Speaker has been sharply critical of Obama’s handling of Iraq in recent years, accusing him earlier this month of “taking a nap” while the ISIS began taking hold of major cities.

“The government of Iraq clearly has not been the most effective government,” Boehner said, referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “They’ve had their challenges in terms of understanding how to run a free society and a government that’s open. 

“Having said that, it’s nothing new,” the Speaker continued. “The president’s been watching what we’ve been watching for over a year, as the situation in Iraq continued to be undermined. Yet nothing, nothing has happened to try to reverse it.

“I’m hopeful I’ll hear something today,” Boehner said.

Boehner adamantly disagreed with a suggestion by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that the U.S. enter into discussions with Iran about how best to help the Iraqi government.

“No. Absolutely not,” he said. “I can just imagine what our friends in the region, our allies, would be thinking by [our] reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and sponsor terrorism, not only in Syria, in Lebanon and in Israel as well.”