GOP senator slams Iraqi government for turmoil

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Thursday blamed violence in Iraq on a “sectarian trap” that ensnared the country’s leaders.

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Officials in Baghdad “failed to achieve a government representative of its people,” Lee said during an interview with a Utah radio station. He added that there had been a “breakdown of the system over there,” despite the advice of U.S. diplomatic and military advisers.

Over the last week, the al-Qaeda inspired Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized control of a series of Iraqi cities and towns. On Wednesday, the extremist group reportedly captured the country’s largest domestic oil refinery.

President Obama is set to meet with his national security team at the White House on Thursday about the situation. He will deliver remarks after the meeting.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is also set to receive its second classified briefing in a week on the situation Thursday afternoon.

Lee, a member of the panel, said the president must develop a plan that protects U.S. interests in Iraq, especially the thousands of employees at the embassy in Baghdad. But he expressed concern about “getting involved in a sectarian war there.”

Lee cited comments by retired Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the 2066 U.S. surge in Iraq, who cautioned: “This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias, or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight.”

Lee also expressed concern that ISIS could capture any additional equipment or weaponry provided by the U.S

He said the security situation could easily devolved into “coulda’, shoulda’, woulda’ second-guessing” and that all of the choices available to Obama were “fraught with a lot of peril.”

“I don’t envy the president or the situation he’s in,” Lee added.

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