Members of Congress and retired military officials called Sunday for the U.S. to more actively help the Iraqi government in response to the lightning-fast advance of Sunni Islamic fighters to areas 45 minutes outside Baghdad.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” talk show, retired Gen. Paul Eaton, who was formerly in charge of training Iraqi security forces, called Iran a “natural ally” in a possible campaign against the militants known as the
ISIS, an extremist Sunni group, considers Shiite Muslims to be apostates, including the Alawites who lead the Syrian government and the Shia majorities in Iraq and Iran.
"If ISIS is not dealt with, that's the staging area for a new attack on the United States," Graham said on CNN.
Republicans such as Graham and Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, have called the crisis in Iraq the worst national security threat the U.S. has faced since the
Graham is urging President Obama to launch airstrikes against ISIS units in Iraq. But military experts such as Eaton cautioned against airstrikes because of the likelihood that strikes against ISIS positions in Iraqi towns and neighborhoods would also kill civilians.
"The optics of bombs landing on friendly Arabs are very bad optics for the United States," Eaton said.
Eaton and retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli suggested sending American military advisers to Iraq to shore up the Iraqi military.
Obama has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf armed with bombers, and the U.S. could also launch drones from Turkey. But on Friday, Obama said the U.S. will not send ground troops back to the country.
"Ultimately, it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," Obama said Friday.
The members of Congress and the military experts also urged the U.S. to push for a political solution in Iraq that would give the country's disgruntled Sunni minority a greater voice in the government. Maliki and other Shiite leaders have strenuously resisted previous suggestions that they share power with the Sunnis, who were the power base for the Iraq's former dictator, Saddam Hussein.