Sen. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who earlier accused Obama of “taking a nap” while conditions spiraled, said Congress and the Pentagon have been warning the White House about the deteriorating security situation for months.
“It’s long past time for the president to lay out a plan for how we can reverse the momentum and spread of terrorism in Iraq and a region that is critical to U.S. national interests,” he said.
Obama on Friday said the U.S. may intervene militarily to try to stabilize Iraq, but said any decision would not come for at least a few days, and may not come at all if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does not commit to major political reforms, including reintegrating Sunnis to leadership positions in the government and military.
Even if the U.S. agrees to help in the short-term, Obama said ultimately, Iraq must solve its own political and security problems.
"The United States will do our part but ultimately it's up to Iraqis as a sovereign nation to handle their problems," he said.
Obama, in a televised statement before he boarded Marine One on a trip to North Dakota and California, cautioned that any action would not take place “overnight” because U.S. authorities want to “make sure we have good eyes on the situation there.”
“We want to make sure we’ve gathered all the intelligence that is necessary so that if I do order action” it will be precise and “have an effect,” he said.
Republicans urged Obama to act swiftly, stressing the need for him to make his case to Congress before acting.
Obama said he would “consult with Congress” about any potential military action, including airstrikes, but did not indicate whether he would ask lawmakers to vote on any proposed intervention as he did when he was weighing airstrikes against Syria after the Assad government crossed his “red-line” threat and used chemical weapons against rebels.
Legally, the military action in Iraq is different than Syria because the congressional authorization of Iraq in 2003 has never expired. But the U.S. likely would need a Status of Forces Agreement with al-Maliki's government to send any type of military servicemen, advisers or otherwise, into the country. The Obama administration failed to secure such a deal with al-Maliki for a residual level of troops to remain in Iraq in in 2011.
Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with Obama that the crisis in Iraq is ultimately up to Iraqis to solve and the U.S. shouldn't have boots on the ground, but said he doesn't have days to determine what steps to take.
“This is a region in chaos,” he said. “The president and his team need to be acting urgently — not ‘reviewing options in the days ahead.’ ”