Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday that President Obama may be “too cautious” in setting a strategy to deal with the Islamist militant group seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, and called for a bolder U.S. effort to confront the group.
“I have learned one thing about this president: He is very cautious. Maybe, in this instance, too cautious,” said Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
She described the Islamic State group “a major varsity team,” not a “JV team,” as it was described earlier this year by Obama.
Feinstein’s comments, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” pointed to the challenges Obama faces as he tries to persuade Congress and Mideast allies that the United States needs to put together a like-minded diplomatic coalition in the region before stepping up attacks on the group.
Obama has come under criticism since saying in a news conference Thursday that “we don’t have a strategy yet,” a phrase his detractors took as an admission of the shortcomings of his broader foreign policy at a time of turmoil abroad.
Feinstein noted with approval an op-ed written by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in the New York Times on Friday that said Obama’s lack of a strategy is “dangerous.”
She did not, however, call for broader air strikes or any specific military action.
She said the Islamic State is a “vicious, vicious” organization that has pledged “to spill the blood” of Americans.
Feinstein said she expects the group will try to attack the American embassy in Baghdad from the west.
She said Obama was wise to try to pressure the Iraqi government to come together to stand up to the militants.
Feinstein also called into question the administration’s strategy for dealing with Russia’s attempt to gain control of eastern Ukraine, saying she is not sure that escalating economic sanctions will persuade President Vladimir Putin to halt his military campaign.
The Russians “will tough out any economic difficulties,” she said.
Feinstein called for the administration to seek direct talks with Putin.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Obama’s comment shows that the administration foreign policy is “in absolute free fall.”
He said on “Fox News Sunday” that traditional U.S. allies are looking at crises in Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Russia and saying that “maybe America is not the best one to lead us through these troubles.”
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