Rep. Tom Cole: Be ‘Smart About What We Do’ on ISIS

By Imtiyaz Delawala

Aug 31, 2014 3:51pm

While some Republicans have criticized President Obama for not acting quickly enough to combat the growing threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said today on “This Week” that the U.S. has to be “smart about what we do” and not rush to act.

“I think frankly there’s way too much emphasis on acting now and doing something immediately instead of being smart about what we do,” Cole said on the “This Week” roundtable. “I think the elements of a strategy are already there. We know we’re going to use air power. We know we’re going to use special operators. We know we’re going to have to build alliances on the ground. That’s a very doable thing.

“They’re tougher in Syria than they are in Iraq. We don’t have any preexisting relationships there,” Cole added. “But I think at the end of the day, look I think there’s a consensus that we are going to do things, but again being a little bit thoughtful might be a good idea.”

At a news conference Friday, President Obama said, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet” when asked about seeking Congressional approval for U.S. strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.

The administration approved military surveillance flights over Syria last week, but airstrikes in Syria have not been authorized.

The U.S. has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS positions as part of humanitarian relief efforts, supporting Iraqi military operations and to protect U.S. assets and personnel in Iraq.

Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen today broke a six-week siege by ISIS on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, after U.S. airstrikes on the militant group’s forces.

While Cole said Obama “made some bad mistakes” in pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 and “not taking this threat seriously earlier,” he said, “I still think the elements are there to be successful.”

Cole, a member of the House Republican leadership, also said he believes “there can be bipartisan support” for action against ISIS if Obama comes to Congress.

“I think the important thing for the president here is to move with Congress — that is, to not do this on his own, to make everybody put their fingerprints on the decision and say yea or nay and go home and justify it,” Cole said.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the current foreign policy challenges a “potential 9/11 moment,” but said more has to be learned about ISIS.

“They’re bad, but what is their goal? Can they reach the American homeland?” he said.

Richardson acknowledged the regional threat posed by ISIS, but said the U.S. shouldn’t act without allies and “go it alone” with military action against the group in Syria.

“You do have to have a coalition,” he said.

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