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Portman Backs Obama's ISIL Plan

Portman Backs Obama's ISIL Plan

By Adam O'Neal - September 11, 2014

By Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor 

Sen. Rob Portman indicated Thursday his general approval of President Obama's new strategy to combat Islamic State militants and said Congress should fund those efforts. However, the Ohio Republican’s backing came with a strong condemnation of Obama’s broader foreign policy.   

“I support what he laid out,” said Portman at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I think Congress ought to respond appropriately and provide him the funding he has asked for.” 

In a speech to the nation Wednesday night, Obama described a four-point plan to confront the group known as ISIL (or ISIS): expanding airstrikes against militants into Syria; sending an additional 475 service members to Iraq to assist with training forces and intelligence-gathering there; targeting ISIL’s funding; and continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to affected civilians. 

However, Portman asserted that Obama created the conditions that enabled ISIL’s rise in the Iraq by pulling out U.S. troops three years ago. “Not leaving residual force,” Portman said, “is the reason we’re in the situation we’re in.”

Obama has defended the withdrawal, saying it was impossible to reach a “status of forces” agreement with the Iraqi government, though critics have argued that re-election politics prevented Obama from aggressively pursuing an agreement. 

The former Bush administration official -- who has also served in both chambers of Congress -- described the role he believes lawmakers should take in the new strategy: “I think the president has the authority to act in Iraq against ISIS. I think when he begins to execute the plan he talked about in Syria, he should come to Congress.” 

However, he later allowed that “this is always a controversial and gray area in terms of the War Powers Act and what it requires.” 

Portman also criticized Obama’s handling of Afghanistan, Ukraine, and other parts of the Middle East, including Israel and Gaza, saying that “hope is not a strategy.”

The first-term senator also underwent a common ritual for high-profile politicians -- answering questions about his own presidential aspirations. 

In July, Portman told the Washington Post he “might have a change of heart” and decide to run for president in 2016. Asked to address the matter at Thursday’s breakfast, he demurred, noting that he still has a “full plate” in 2014. 

“I’m going to take a look at it next year,” Portman added.

 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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