WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) doesn't think the public has been sufficiently frightened about what is going on in the Middle East. On Sunday, he urged President Barack Obama to give a speech warning Americans that the United States faces a possible terrorist attack from Iraq or Syria.
Speaking to host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," Graham repeatedly insisted on addressing his answers to Obama instead.
"So Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq. What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so," he said.
On Thursday, Obama announced that he had authorized limited airstrikes in Iraq in an effort to stop the Islamic State, a militant group currently threatening the Kurdish city of Irbil, where American officials and forces are located. The group has also driven thousands of Iraqis belonging to the minority Yazidi sect onto a barren mountain and terrorized people across the country as it seeks to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
But Graham's concerns about the Islamic State, which previously has been called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), hit closer to home.
"[Obama is] trying to avoid a bad news story on his watch," Graham said on Sunday. "This is not a replacement for a strategy to deal with an existential threat to the homeland. To every member of Congress, we've been told by every major intelligence leader in our nation that we're threatened. The homeland is threatened by the presence of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. To change that threat, we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense."
"If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL -- whatever you want to call these guys -- they are coming here," he added. "This is just not about Baghdad, this is just not about Syria, this is about our homeland. And if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages."
Graham has consistently been one of Obama's most vocal critics on foreign policy. In June, he also warned that the "seeds of 9/11" were being planted in Iraq and Syria.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), another frequent Obama critic on national security, also lambasted the president for not doing enough during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. King warned of another terrorist attack similar to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
"They are more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11," he said, referring to the Islamic State, adding, "I lost hundreds of constituents on 9/11. I never want to do that again. We see this coming. For the president to say we're doing airstrikes, we're not doing anything else. We're not going to use American combat troops, not going to do this, not going to do that. What kind of leadership is that? You should never let the enemy know what you're going to do."
Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged that the Islamic State has stated its goal of one day attacking the United States. But, he added, the group currently does not have the ability to do so.
"Certainly one of the considerations we have is to make sure that they never can," Kerry said in an interview in June with ABC News."But that’s exactly what the president is busy trying to determine now, is: What is the best way to approach that so that we are most effective and, frankly, in a way that is sustainable over the long haul?”
More recently, in late July, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said the Islamic State posed a "longer term" threat to America.
"Let me speak for the United States military. The United States military does consider ISIL a threat to -- initially to the region and our close allies, longer term to the United States of America," he said. "And therefore we are preparing a strategy that has a series of options to present to our elected leaders on how we can initially contain, eventually disrupt, and finally defeat ISIL over time."
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Mich.), who appeared on "Fox News Sunday" with Graham, argued that military strikes alone were not enough to stop the militant group.
"I don't think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view from the use of our airstrikes. That's not going to solve the problem. The fundamental problem is whether the Iraqis believe they have a representative government so that Sunnis feel comfortable with the government in Baghdad. I think that's going to be the key to cutting off the type of permanent support that ISIS could otherwise have."
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