Hoyer: Obama should consider airstrikes

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The second-ranking House Democrat on Tuesday said President Obama "should be considering" missile strikes in Iraq.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, warned that the advancing Sunni insurgency threatens not only the Iraqi government, but other countries as well if the country becomes a terrorist training ground.

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With that in mind, Hoyer said Obama should be weighing missile strikes in an effort to curb the threat to the West.

"I certainly think we should be considering them, yes," Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

"We don't want to see a situation [like that] created in Afghanistan by the Taliban, where you had terrorists clearly intent on attacking the United States of America. So this is not just a question of internal stability in Iraq; it is a question of bases for training and deployment of attacks on the United States."

Obama has so far resisted calls from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to launch missile strikes on Sunni militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who have overrun several major cities in the war-torn country on their quest to take Baghdad. While emphasizing that he hasn't ruled out any options, Obama is pushing the sides to take diplomatic steps to end the crisis.

Hoyer stressed that any new U.S. military intervention would have to be temporary, and that Iraq's long-term stability will hinge on the effectiveness of the country's Shiite leaders "reaching out to the Sunni moderate leadership and trying to construct a new paradigm of cooperation."

"We may be able to take out some people with either airstrikes or drones or something else," he said. "But if we can't bring stability to the country ... we need to figure that out."

Hoyer said Obama would not need Congress's approval to launch missile strikes.

"Under the existing authorization for the use of force I think they have that [power]," he said.

Hoyer said he doesn't know how many Democrats in the caucus agree with him on the issue. "I haven't talked to a broad spectrum of the Democrats," he said. But he predicted that a significant number would likely support such a military intervention.

"I think they share my view that this is a great concern," he said. "I think the view is pretty widely shared across the ideological divide that Maliki has been the author of the instability that he now finds himself threatened by. And that is unfortunate, but it has consequences for us as well, and I think a lot of Democrats would see that."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also voiced support of a limited intervention to quell the growing insurgency.

"When they say military, as long as they don't mean boots on the ground, then we can talk about something if it means providing equipment or some other assist," Pelosi said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Those comments struck a different tone than she sounded last week, when Pelosi warned that there isn't "any appetite in our country for us to become engaged in any more military activity in Iraq."  

"It doesn't matter why; it is a fact," she said Thursday. "The American people have been exhausted with wars."

Obama on Monday announced a strategy to send as many as 275 troops to Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy and other American interests, but emphasized that it has no plans to return U.S. troops to the field.