To Strike Or Not To Strike Iraq?

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • THE QUESTION FACING THE PRESIDENT: Although President Obama has not made a decision yet, several senior administration officials tell ABC's JONATHAN KARL that he is unlikely to order a large-scale air offensive against militant targets in Iraq. If the president opts for air strikes of any kind, it would likely be very limited - similar to the kind of targeted drone strikes we have seem on specific targets in Yemen and Pakistan. The leading option right now is sending a small contingent of special operations forces to advise and train the Iraqi army, according two senior U.S. officials.
  • THE TIMELINE: KARL reports that the President is likely to make a decision before the end of the week, but probably not today. He meets with the Congressional leaders at the White House this afternoon.

BERGDAHL DEBATE FLARES UP ON TO CAPITOL HILL. On Sept. 4, 2009, Army 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews was killed by an IED and RPG attack in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Today, his father Andy is expected to tell lawmakers that he believes his son was killed while on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl, just a few months after he had slipped into the hands of the Taliban after apparently leaving his base in Paktika, according to ABC's JOHN PARKINSON. At the time Andrews' death, his parents were told their son was killed on a mission to capture a senior Taliban commander. But after Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban prisoners on May 31, a congressional source who helped arrange Andy Andrews' testimony says the family was contacted by several members on Darryn's team who told them the true intent of the mission was to locate and rescue Bergdahl.

-HAPPENING TODAY: Two subcommittees from the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a joint hearing to examine the implications the exchange could have on U.S. national security and the global war on terrorism. Rep. Ted Poe, chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, said, "We are holding this hearing to get the ground truth from those who were in Afghanistan when it happened, those who suffered losses from this ordeal and to try and understand what the consequences of this deal will be." Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, added. "This hearing will help us understand what the implications of this decision may be, both for our troops in Afghanistan and for our ongoing fight against terrorism."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: A week's worth of interviews have brought something precious and notable into the Hillary Clinton equation: daylight. Daylight, that is, between President Obama's actions and Clinton's own prescriptions. Her joint interview with Fox News' Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren produced shades of differentiation on Syria, Iran, NSA spying, the Bowe Bergdahl swap, and even whether the IRS targeting scandal is worth further investigating. Most of the differences so far are in foreign policy and national security - Clinton's specialty after four years as secretary of state, and also the subject of most of the questioning to date. Ultimately, a Clinton candidacy will rise or fall on her ability to distinguish herself from the current administration; "third terms" are notoriously hard to win. But one area of openness in particular may be a source of regret: Clinton seemed to justify new Benghazi probes by saying on CNN, "There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly."


OBAMA CALLS BENGHAZI SUSPECT'S CAPTURE 'A MESSAGE TO THE WORLD'. The U.S. government has captured who it's calling "a key figure" in the attacks two years ago on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, according to ABC's PIERRE THOMAS, MIKE LEVINE, LUIS MARTINEZ and LEE FERRAN. American military and law enforcement personnel operating in Libya captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, who had been secretly indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role in the attacks. Khattala, who was captured Sunday, is now in "a secure location outside of Libya," and no civilians or U.S. personnel were harmed in the operation, according to a statement yesterday from a Pentagon spokesman. Two U.S. officials said he is being held on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean. "It's important for us to send as a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and bring them to justice," President Obama said yesterday.

HILLARY CLINTON: MEET YOUR SQUIRREL STALKER. It seems Hillary Clinton wants everyone to read her new memoir, "Hard Choices" - even the giant Republican squirrel following her book tour. In a show of good will toward giant costumed rodents everywhere, the former secretary of state handed a copy of her book to the squirrel outside an event in Washington, D.C., yesterday, ABC's JAKE LEFFERMAN reports. "I hope you will make the hard choice to read my book," Clinton said. The large orange squirrel, a Republican National Committee intern in costume, is stationed at events to draw media attention away from Clinton. It wears a t-shirt with the slogan "Another Clinton in the White House is NUTS!" Clinton seemed unfazed as she greeted the squirrel and a crowd of supporters outside a CNN town hall this evening. "You bring a smile to a lot of people's faces," Clinton said. "Thank you, Mr. Squirrel. Thank you so much."

DR. OZ SCOLDED BY SENATORS FOR 'MIRACLE' WEIGHT LOSS CLAIMS. Television's popular physician Dr. Mehmet Oz was harshly criticized by a skeptical Senate panel yesterday over his claims that certain weight loss products can be "miracles" and "lightning in a bottle," forcing Oz to defend himself as a "cheerleader" for people trying to lose weight, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. Oz appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that was looking into a "crisis in consumer protection," and he quickly became a target. Some of the claims Oz has made on his television show - and the products he has touted - have come under scrutiny before and yesterday committee chairwoman Sen. Claire McCaskill asked Oz, "Why when you have this amazing megaphone and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?" Oz has called products like green coffee bean extract, a substance derived from coffee and sold as a weight-loss drug, "miracles in a bottle" and yesterday he defended that use comparing it to changes in the medical field and even the use of prayer.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO LOVES THE OCEANS TO THE TUNE OF $7 MILLION. Leonardo DiCaprio has explored the deep seas of Mozambique, Thailand and beyond; he's swam with 15 species of sharks and narrowly avoided being attacked by one. And no, it wasn't for one of the A-list actor's movie roles. It's just what he does for fun. DiCaprio appeared at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to talk about an issue near and dear to his heart: the protection of the world's oceans, which, he warned, are in danger of being destroyed by climate change, illegal fishing and other human activities, ABC's ALI WEINBERG reports. "I'm standing here today as a concerned citizen of this planet who believes that this is the most important issue of our time," DiCaprio said. "If we don't do something to save our oceans now, it won't be just the sharks and the dolphins that will suffer; it will be all of us including our children and our grandchildren." DiCaprio's appearance was part of Secretary of State John Kerry's "Our Oceans" conference, which focused on framing the world's waterways as a global security and economic priority. Just before DiCaprio spoke, President Obama announced executive actions geared towards combating black market fishing and protecting world-class marine areas including parts of the Pacific Ocean.


WHO KNEW? PRESIDENT OBAMA TOTALLY GETS EMOJIS. President Obama showed just how "hip" he was yesteday when he made a reference to emojis in a speech in Pittsburgh, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. "I do find that Malia and Sasha's generation, they're so - they live so much on their phones that it's harder for them to create, maintain keepsakes and - and objects that show attachment, relationships, et cetera," Obama said at TechShop, a workshop and prototype studio, in Pittsburg. "Now, to her credit, Malia, for example, wrote me a letter for Father's Day, which obviously was a lot more important to me than if she had just texted a little emoji or whatever those things are." It's unclear whether the president uses emojis himself, but with two teenager daughters in the White House, it's likely that he's come into contact with the popular animated characters sent via texts. Malia and Sasha were spotted at the Inauguration last year using an iPhone to snap selfies and even took a picture of their parents kissing.


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