Clyburn: Iraq 'cries out' for drone strikes

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Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Wednesday that the deteriorating situation in Iraq “cries out” for President Obama to launch drone strikes.

"I'm a great believer in drones, and I think that this situation cries out for it," Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said following a closed-door meeting of the Democratic Caucus in the Capitol.

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Clyburn is the latest in a growing list of Democratic leaders to support a direct military intervention to prevent Sunni militants from toppling Baghdad and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Obama to "take direct action now" to counter the threat posed by insurgents representing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group linked to al-Qaeda.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Obama "certainly … should be considering" airstrikes to quell the uprising. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has remained open to the idea of "providing equipment or some other assist" to the Iraqi government as long as there are no U.S. boots on the ground.

They may have their work cut out for them in convincing their colleagues, however, as many other Democrats are lining up in opposition to the idea of a renewed military involvement in Iraq – at least while Maliki remains atop the government.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argues that Obama should withhold any military help "until such time as either Maliki's gone or Maliki's policies change dramatically." 

"Just because ISIS is bad doesn't mean that Maliki is good," Sherman said Tuesday by phone. 

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Wednesday that he supports Obama's decision to send up to 275 troops to protect the U.S. embassy and other facilities in Baghdad. But he is opposed to the idea of "going into war again."

Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, warned that any U.S. intervention with be fruitless without concessions from warring Iraqi factions. 

"I don't know if there's any utility in involving ourselves in what is quickly descending into civil war, unless the leaders in Iraq are willing to say that they want to be a [unified] country," Becerra said.

"I'm not sure where the White House is preparing to go,” he continued. “I'd be supportive of anything that helps us support democracy and freedom but at the same time, you have to prove to me that the Iraqis are willing to step up and say that Shia will protect Sunni, Sunni will protect Shia, and the Kurds will do the same."

The Iraq debate arrives as the administration is eying targeted missile strikes against the ISIS militants in an effort to bring some stability to the embattled nation roughly two-and-a-half years after Obama pulled the last U.S. troops out of it.

Support from Democratic leaders will be crucial, if Obama goes that route, as he faces both a public and a Congress hostile to the notion of launching new operations after more than a decade of war post-9/11.

Obama is scheduled to huddle at the White House Wednesday afternoon with top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Pelosi – to discuss the issue.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, had some advice for the president as he weighs his options.

"Stop listening to the people who sent us there with no plan," Fudge said Wednesday. "I would hate to see another generation of young people have to fight in Iraq in a civil war.

“So let us do what we should have done in the very beginning: let's determine what it is we get out of Iraq, how we get out of Iraq and how we help the Iraqi people,” she continued.

"Enough people have died in this war."