The president said he will expand U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq to include targets throughout the country, and he left open the option to bomb the group across the rapidly disintegrating border with Syria, where Islamic State harbors its weapons, camps and fighters.
Backing up the president, Secretary of State
Administration officials now surmise that achieving Obama's stated goal of "ultimately destroying" the group may take years, leaving it a task for future presidents to complete.
But administration officials acknowledge that the strategy is likely to rely on a growing contingent of
The White House argues that a broad new campaign is warranted and legally justified because Islamic State — an offshoot of
Homeland Security Secretary
Administration officials assert that Obama can and will take these actions without authorization from lawmakers. The decision to avoid a vote in
Now the White House has dropped those arguments. With elections looming and political gridlock firmly in place, Congress is unlikely to agree on such a measure in the near future. The president is expected to say he welcomes lawmakers' support and to promise to consult with them frequently.
To that end, the White House has asked Congress to authorize $500 million to arm and equip Syrian rebels by adding a provision to a must-pass spending bill that that could be voted on as soon as this week.
Although Obama appears to be bending to Republican calls for greater U.S. engagement in Iraq and Syria, GOP leaders continued to criticize him Wednesday.
“All of this underscores something I’ve been suggesting for some time: The president is a rather reluctant commander in chief,”
"Americans are worried and they're anxious. They want — and deserve — the truth. Most of all, though, they want a plan."
The speech on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was an attempt to rally support for his mission from the American public. A summer of foreign crises has taken a toll on his standing on foreign affairs, and polls show Americans increasingly disapproving of Obama's leadership abroad.
At the same time, the public's weariness after waging war on two fronts for much of the last decade is waning somewhat, according to recent polls. Videos showing the beheading of two U.S. journalists at the hands of Islamic State militants appears to have brought on fresh fear of terrorism and galvanized support for military action.
As he has before, Obama was due to compare his Iraq strategy with previous campaigns.
But some noted the Iraq plan was a far broader effort, with a larger coalition, more extensive diplomatic and political elements and a more aggressive military component than any previous effort.
Times staff writers Lisa Mascaro and Brian Bennett in Washington contributed to this report.