Congressional leaders meet with President Obama this afternoon to discuss the crisis in Iraq. The president is assessing options as the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) tries to fight its way to Baghdad.
Those options range from possible U.S. air strikes to talks involving neighboring Iran. President Obama has already sent about more than 200 U.S. troops to beef up security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who is a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss what he wants to hear from President Obama and what he thinks the U.S. should do.
On the subject of possible U.S. air strikes against the militants in Iraq, Kaine says “it’s premature to say yes or no to that.”
Interview Highlights: Tim Kaine
On Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government
“If the issue is should we come in to try back up the Maliki government, why would we do that? They kicked us out of the country and then they’ve oppressed the minorities in the country. That’s part of the reason for the extremism. That’s one of the reasons for the extremism. I don’t think we need to be Maliki’s protector.”
On cooperation with Iran
“All regional neighbors who want to participate, it’s good to have them participate, including Iran. We need to be skeptical about a couple aspects of Iran. Iran is already helping the Maliki government. Iran is a Shia nation that wants to support him because he’s a Shia. If it’s just going to be a matter of trying to help the Shias squash Sunnis and Kurds even more, the last thing the United States should be doing is weighing in on a sectarian conflict that we didn’t create and trying to prefer one side or the other.”
On options the United States can take
“I suspect that there are a number of things short of full military option that the United States can do in terms of counterterrorism. Similar to what we’re doing with respect to counterterrorism operations in Yemen or in North Africa. There’s a whole series of things we’re doing against al-Qaida affiliates who pose threats to the United States. I think that will be a component of what the president suggests. I have supported those efforts in the past.”
- Tim Kaine, Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia. He’s a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. He tweets @timkaine.