Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement on developments in Iraq:
“We agree with President Obama that any effective policy to stabilize Iraq requires actions by Iraq's leaders, especially the Iraqi government, to further national reconciliation. We have long said the same. However, the recent advance of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters has created a more urgent security problem: the grave risk of renewed sectarian conflict in Iraq and the expansion of what is already the largest terrorist safe haven in history.
“This is not just Iraq's problem. It is also a growing threat to the United States and our partners and allies. Therefore, while we continue to urge Iraqi leaders to unify and reconcile, our most immediate priority must be to reverse the advance of a terrorist force that is more radical, violent, and ambitious than Al-Qaeda. We see no way to achieve this goal without U.S. air strikes, among other military and intelligence actions and additional support for our Iraqi partners. A delayed or weak response from the United States will only deepen the Iraqi government's dependence on Iran, and destroy the prospects of national reconciliation. Further, we strongly urge the Administration engage Turkey to use its influence in the region and in particular with Sunni Arabs to put pressure on ISIS. Turkey should also work closely with the Kurds to put pressure on ISIS from the north.
“At the same time, our response should not be limited to Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has safe havens on both sides of the border. Unless we take action against ISIS in Syria and increase our military assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition, any actions we take against ISIS in Iraq risk being undercut by their ability to flee for safety in Syria.
“This is a moment to deal ISIS a crippling blow, when they are over-stretched and least prepared for it. We must be thoughtful and deliberate in any actions we take. But we must also recognize that time is of the essence. Iraqi leaders need to reconcile, but the more immediate concern must be stopping the advance of ISIS. That is not just in Iraq's interests. It is also in ours.”