A Rift Imperils Authorization to Combat ISIS

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Rift Imperils Authorization to Combat ISIS.

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged lawmakers on Wednesday to give President Barack Obama new war powers to strike against the self-styled Islamic State (IS) at “a pivotal hour” in the battle against the militants. “Our nation is strongest when we act together — and we simply cannot allow this collection of murderers and thugs to achieve its ambitions,” John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday that the war against the Islamic State militants could outlive the Obama administration and the present Congress.

The State (IS) group, which has captured a large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria, wanted to ensure “the death or submission of all who oppose it” as well as “the incitement of terrorist acts across the globe”, he said. Kerry called for a united vote in favour of a new authorisation for use of military force (AUMF) to give Obama “a clear mandate to prosecute armed conflict against IS and associated persons or forces”. While lawmakers from both parties welcomed Obama’s initiative, he said, “we don’t know of a single Democrat in Congress, in the United States Senate, anyway,” who supports it as written. The president sent the request o Congress early last month. “The proposed authorisation wisely does not include any geographical restriction, because IS already shows signs of metastasizing outside of Syria and Iraq,” Carter said. Obama, in his news conference after the midterm elections in November, announced he would seek specific authorization from Congress, he said, “The world needs to know we are united behind this effort.” But after the proposal went to Congress, there is little evidence that the administration has lobbied members to win support for its request, and few suggestions that Democratic and Republican lawmakers are successfully working toward an alternative.

GROUND MISSION: The top US diplomat also insisted that the “administration sees no need for US forces to engage in enduring offensive ground combat operations against ISIL”. But he has already sent military advisers back to Iraq to combat IS, and is weighing whether to slow down the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Paul said. “And it just means that Congress is inconsequential.” For now, the legislation appears to be faltering under the collective weight of lawmakers who all remain wary, but for very different reasons. Carter said was a “sensible and principled provision.” It would also repeal Congress’s 2002 authorization of force, while leaving in place the 2001 measure. “I cannot tell you that our campaign to defeat ISIL would be completed in three years,” Mr. Corker and others expressed concern that the AUMF would not authorize U.S. air assaults against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting a separate battle with an indigenous U.S.-backed force.

But, he added, “the president’s proposed authorization affords the American people the chance to assess our progress in three years’ time and provides the next president and the next Congress the opportunity to reauthorize it, if they find it necessary.” The debate over military action has been further complicated by partisan friction over the administration’s negotiations to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, an effort many Republicans strongly oppose. But, he said, it was under consideration within the administration asa military training program for opposition fighters — that Congress funded last year — gets underway.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and also a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, said he believed that “much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on.” Mr. Kerry, at the urging of a Democratic senator, also criticized a recent open letter to Iran’s leadership that warned about any nuclear agreement, calling it “quite stunning.” The letter was drafted by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, and signed by 47 Republicans. “My reaction to the letter was utter disbelief,” Mr. Kerry said. “The letter was to Iran, but it should’ve been CC’d to the White House because the White House needs to understand that any agreement that removes or changes legislation will have to be passed by us,” Mr. Congressional divisions over what a new AUMF would say have contributed to the lack of a challenge to the administration’s interpretation of those measures.

After the hearing, Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said that although he did not like the language the administration had sent over, he would reserve judgment until a final proposal came out of the committee, and that he remained modestly optimistic. “Bottom line, a strong supermajority of both houses supports U.S. military action against ISIL,” Mr. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) noted the discomfort of some Republicans with limitations on the authorization, but said, “We all recognize that we may have to endure some degree of ambiguity in the language.” Serving up a softball for Kerry, Flake asked whether “at some point does it not become useful to have an AUMF that would be passed simply with a partisan vote?” Kaine said. “That doesn’t mean the details and the differences aren’t important, but start with that proposition, that there’s strong bipartisan support for military action.”

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