Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the United States should only launch airstrikes in Iraq unless the various sectarian factions in the nation can unite to formally request it.
“Without at least that much of a showing of unity is made, I don’t believe that any assistance on our part would make a difference,” Levin said at a Friday news conference.
“The step that is critically essential before we even consider airstrikes is for there to be a formal public statement by the leaders of all of the groups in Iraq; Shia, Sunni, religious minorities, Kurds, tribal leadership in a public formal statement requesting assistance,” Levin said. “That would be a major step towards, and it would be an indication of a willingness to move towards national unity.”
Levin’s comments come after President Obama said he is considering possible military action in Iraq where sectarian extremists are threatening to overrun the government.
Militants — known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL — have pushed from the border with Syria and overtaken major cities in Iraq's northern Sunni region sparking a new refugee crisis with hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing.
Levin also conditioned airstrikes on military leaders deciding that we have effective options that can change the momentum on the ground in Iraq and on clear public support from friends and allies in the region — particularly moderate Arab leaders of neighboring countries.
Levin warned that the militants pose a threat to the United States and its allies.
“The ISIL is a vicious enemy,” Levin said. “It is also the common enemy of all Iraqis, and of Iraq’s neighbors. If this vicious, common enemy cannot unite Iraqis in common cause, then our assistance, including air strikes, will make no difference.”