As President Barack Obama addressed the world from Talinn, Estonia, on Wednesday, saying that the U.S. and its allies would "degrade and destroy" ISIS, members of Congress were calling for more direct action against the Sunni militant group that has horrified the world with its atrocities in recent months.
The bipartisan outrage over the beheading of Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist to be beheaded by ISIS in as many weeks, has prompted Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, to introduce legislation that would grant Obama congressional authority to strike ISIS, aka the Islamic State, in Syria.
“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said. “We must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty.”
But Nelson won't be able to introduce the bill until next week, when Congress returns from its recess, which may see the National Defense Authorization Act 2015 held up again as bills are inserted to deal with the increasing threat of Russia and ISIS. The bill is currently being held up in the Senate.
Nelson is not alone in his support for action. “It is chilling that this type of madness is now part of their operation as they take cities across the area,” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, said on CNN in a joint interview with his committee’s ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel of New York.
Both Royce and Engel want to see airstrikes hit ISIS training camps in order to stem the flow of fighters to the group.
The renewed interest from Congress to intervene in Syria comes one year after an Obama-led drive to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad fell apart. Congress was reluctant to allow the United States to become embroiled in another overseas conflict, but now, as the U.S. conducts airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq in response to the Islamic militant group's continuing brutal rampage, the threat from ISIS in Syria is one that Congress appears more willing to deal with.
“It is time we act decisively against ISIL [another name for ISIS] wherever it resides. Whenever American air power has been employed, in coordination with reliable partners on the ground, ISIL has been devastated. It’s a tactic that should be aggressively pursued in both Syria and Iraq,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, on Tuesday.
So far, Obama’s administration has been reluctant to commit to a policy on ISIS in Syria, as U.S.-backed moderate rebels and ISIS radicals are both fighting Assad, a dictator who Obama has said before has lost all legitimacy to govern. In addition, midterm elections are just two months away, which may leave some members of Congress reluctant to support military action just when America’s longest foreign war, in Afghanistan, is coming to a close.