Schiff: Iraq airstrikes could have ‘no impact’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Thursday cautioned against U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, saying they would have “no impact” or be “counterproductive” without reforms from the government in Baghdad.

“I would need to see changes in the Iraq governance. Otherwise I don't think strikes are going to have any impact and could be very well counterproductive,” said Schiff on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

But Schiff signaled openness to strikes, in particular if the U.S. was able to target the top leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS or ISIL), a Sunni militant group that has captured large swaths of Iraq.

“It may be, if we get good enough intelligence, that we're able to go after very specific, irreplaceable leadership of ISIL. That may make sense so I wouldn't want to rule that out completely,” said Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

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Schiff said he was “pleased” to see Secretary of State John Kerry indicate that airstrikes aren’t imminent, and said strikes could further antagonize the Sunni population.

“I'm glad that we're being restrained in terms of use of military force and I hope we're even more aggressive in trying to force a national unity government there, because I think it's utterly essential,” he said.

The Obama administration has pressed the Shiite majority government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to be more inclusive and give Iraq’s minority Sunnis and Kurds a greater role.

Schiff said Maliki has heard those calls, but noted that the Iraqi leader recently appeared to rule out a unity government until the next elections. Iraq's parliament is scheduled to convene on Monday to begin the process for a new national government. 

“It may be that things need to get worse in Iraq before he's willing to allow them to get better and relinquish his power, which would be the best thing to happen, in my view, to Iraq,” Schiff added. 

As long as Maliki is “at the helm,” Schiff said, “I don't think any of the Sunni tribes are going to be confident of a greater role in the governance of Iraq.”

Schiff’s comments come a week after President Obama announced he would dispatch 300 military advisers to Baghdad to assess the capabilities of Iraq's security forces. A group of them arrived in Iraq’s capital earlier this week.  

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