Manchin: Airstrikes more appealing with international support

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday night he would be receptive to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, granted the United Nations gets on board as well. 

Manchin, however, warned that airstrikes would only be productive if the Iraqi military is willing to fight, which has not yet been the case, he said.

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"They've suggested maybe airstrikes," Manchin said on MSNBC. "That's something I think would be more receptive if we think that we can get the rest of the United Nations involved with us to try to help them defend themselves."

The Iraqi government reportedly requested U.S. airstrikes to target some regions housing extremists last month, but the Obama administration has so far declined, according to media reports.

Sunni militants with the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have overrun a number of large cities in Iraq and could threaten Baghdad. After a briefing on the subject on Thursday, Manchin said administration officials were worried the capital could be taken, warning the current crisis has caught many by surprise. 

"Whoever thought that they would move this quick and this fast? Whoever thought that four regiments would completely give up and not even fight? This has caught everybody by surprise," he said. 

Manchin, however, took issue with some Republicans' assertion that the current turmoil could have been prevented if the Obama administration secured a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government to keep a limited number of troops in the country after combat missions ended in 2011. 

"And would that stop an overthrow of that government?" asked Manchin, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Do we have any reason to believe that a small contingent of U.S. forces who are not in combat somehow stopping these people, insurgents, now from winning?"

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made the point Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

“The fact is, we had the conflict won. The surge had succeeded,” McCain said. “And then, the decision was made by the Obama administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.”