Senate leader Harry Reid rejects call for U.S. troop buildup in Iraq

Senate leader Harry Reid rejects call for U.S. troop buildup in Iraq
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) talks to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The Senate's top Democrat said Wednesday he would oppose any new U.S. military involvement on Iraq, saying it was not in America's interest to involve itself in that nation's "civil war."

"It's time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in remarks on the Senate floor. "After a decade of war, the American people have had enough. American families have had enough. And I do not support in any way putting our men and women in the midst of this civil war."

The Nevada lawmaker's comments came hours before he and other congressional leaders were to meet with President Obama at the White House to discuss a potential U.S. response to radical Sunni Islamic forces that have taken control of swaths of Iraqi territory north of Baghdad.

Reid also challenged Republicans who have been critical of Obama's handling of the situation in Iraq to say whether they would return significant numbers of U.S. forces to the country to address the current crisis. Those who would support any troop buildup are in a "time warp," he said, and heeding the advice of neoconservatives who would lead the nation into "another foreign misadventure."

"Would they have preferred that our soldiers stayed in Iraq in harm's way?" he asked. "Are they, the Republicans, willing to risk more American lives?"

Few Republicans lawmakers have said directly that they would support sending U.S. troops into Iraq or even use aerial attacks to slow or stop the advance of the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), when asked Wednesday if he would support airstrikes, said only that he wanted to hear Obama offer a strategy to reverse ISIS' momentum.

"The president's been watching what we've been watching for over a year as the situation in Iraq continued to be undermined. And yet nothing, nothing has happened to try to reverse it. I'm hopeful I'll hear something today," he told reporters.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who said he spoke with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this past weekend about Iraq, said the U.S. should send a limited number of military personnel, likely special forces, to gather intelligence that could be used to help air forces identify potential targets.

He specifically said the U.S. should not send combat troops, and acknowledged Wednesday that taking military action is "difficult."

"Is there any good option now in Iraq? No," he said on the Senate floor. "The worst option is to do nothing."

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