Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoBooker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals Graham to vote for Trump’s EPA pick Pruitt says his EPA will work with the states MORE (R-Wyo.) expressed concern Sunday that an Islamist extremist group causing chaos in Iraq will attack the United States.
On Sunday, Iraqi officials were working to confirm the authenticity of a 21-minute video said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
He was seen delivering a sermon reportedly filmed on Friday at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
The extremist group has seized a wide expanse of north and west Iraq, and put the nation into a state of upheaval.
Barrasso said al-Baghdadi must feel safe in the large area that his group has overrun, “which shows you that, when the United States leaves a vacuum, others will go in, others will fill it. The bad actors will show up, and we’re seeing it right now.”
“Obviously, he feels emboldened by what his Islamic State has been able to accomplish,” Barrasso added.
Barrasso argued that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq had created the situation and said President Obama is responsible for unrest there and in other areas of the world because he is “projecting worldwide U.S. weakness.”
“I think that it’s hurting us all across the Middle East but in other places worldwide as well, including Russia and the Ukraine.”
“We need a plan from a president who is engaged, not who seems to be just running out the clock.”
But Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyLive coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick Live coverage: Tom Price's confirmation hearing Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE Jr. (D-Pa.) disagreed with Barrasso about the president’s leadership.
“I think he’s shown strong leadership in the region,” Casey said.
“I think the president has taken the right steps so far,” he added.
“We don’t know what will happen next in terms of additional steps; we don’t know if there will be any other direct military action."
Casey said it is appropriate to put U.S. personnel on the ground to protect U.S. diplomatic interests as well as the U.S. embassy and its employees.
The actions should provide an intelligence assessment of what is happening on the ground, too, Casey said.
“But other steps may need to be taken,” he said.
Barrasso and Casey agreed that there is no reason for U.S. combat troops in Iraq.
Casey said he doesn’t think the situation has escalated to the point where Obama needs to engage Congress to authorize military action in Iraq.
But Casey argued that Obama’s request for $500 million to support the well-vetted Syrian opposition could change the dynamic on the battlefield in Syria and, in turn, the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
Casey called the removal of chemical weapons in Syria “a significant accomplishment” for the Obama administration and pushed for a more bipartisan approach for the region.