Congress should reconvene to figure out how to deal with militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Democrat Bruce Braley said today.
“We haven’t had a classified briefing since we left Washington, and there have been additional developments that we need to be aware of,” Braley, a congressman who is running in Iowa’s fiercely competitive U.S. Senate race, told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board.
“Congress needs to be involved in that conversation and talk about the limitations of that authority to keep us from getting bogged down in another decade-long land war,” he said.
Asked if he supports what the president is doing to handle the extremist group, Braley said: “I certainly support the president’s effort to try to stop the advance of ISIS, to put them in check so that they can be put on the run.”
That’s not happening yet because “we don’t have all the pieces that the president would like to see in place,” Braley said.
“It’s clear that ISIS is a threat that needs to be eliminated,” he said. “Any time a terrorist group attacks and tortures and kills U.S. citizens, we have a responsibility to find them and bring them to justice or to the grave. But we can’t do it as the world’s police force. We have to do it as a community of nations. We are making progress in trying to engage our Arab allies in the region, as well as our global partners in trying to address this threat together.”
Braley is competing with Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, 74, who retires in January. Early voting is in progress. Election Day is Nov. 4.
Braley said he thinks there is a clear set of criteria that needs to be met “before you commit U.S. troops.”
“It is a noble thing to serve your country in a time of war, but we had better have a very good reason to send our sons and daughters off to war,” he said. “That’s why I have been someone who has held Republican and Democratic presidents to a high standard.”
Asked about former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s remarks last month that the United States should have gotten involved in Syria sooner, Braley said there were no clear-cut decisions that would have led to a perfect outcome.
In briefings, Braley said, both Democrats and Republicans shared concerns about the difficult choice about which group to engage with to push back against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
“There were rebel forces supported by Iran. There were rebel forces supported by Hezbollah. There were people on all sides of the conflict that’s raging right now in Syria and Iraq. And we have seen this before, where people we have armed end up using weapons against us.”
Braley said the United States invested about $30 billion to train, arm and equip 950,000 members of the Iraqi Army, police force and border patrol.
“But because the central government in Iraq was so bad and had lost the support of people in western Iraq and northern Iraq, it created the safe haven for ISIS, and a small number of terrorists rolled up all those people we trained.”
“The threat to the United States from ISIS is real but the threat to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Arab states that are considered more moderate is much more immediate and much more direct. They need to step up and be part of those boots on the ground if they want to continue to expect our involvement and our air support, which is costing American taxpayers a lot of money.”
Braley also talked about how his stances are different from Ernst’s. For example, he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, keep the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in place and continue to require a permit to carry a concealed weapon – while Ernst doesn’t, he said.
Editor’s note: State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee, has also been invited to meet with the editorial board in coming days.
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