President Barack Obama will outline his plans to tackle the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in an address Wednesday, but indicated he will likely not seek congressional action for expanding the American campaign against the extremist group.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press airing Sunday, Obama said he would “make a speech and describe what our game plan is going forward” the day before the 13th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we’re going to deal with it,” Obama told moderator Chuck Todd, saying the U.S. is preparing to go “on some offense” against the group.
“I’m confident that I’ve got the authorization that I need to protect the American people,” Obama said, indicating he would not seek authorization from Congress to continue the U.S. air campaign, adding his speech would “allow Congress to understand very clear and very specifically what we are doing, but also what we’re not doing.” Obama is scheduled to meet with the congressional leadership on the ISIS threat on Tuesday.
Obama reaffirmed that he would not be sending American soldiers to fight ISIS but said, “We will hunt down [ISIS] members and assets wherever they are.”
“Over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of [ISIS],” Obama added. “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And that’s how we’re going to defeat them.”
Obama said he was not referring directly to ISIS when he previously called the extremist group a “JV [junior varsity] team,” saying the threat from the group to regional stability and the U.S. is greater. “We have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland from [ISIS],” Obama said, attempting to reassure Americans about the group’s capabilities.
The U.S. President also indicated that removing Syrian President Bashar Assad from office has faded from the Administration’s priority list. “Our attitude towards Assad continues to be that through his actions, through using chemical weapons on his own people, dropping barrel bombs that killed innocent children, that he has foregone legitimacy,” Obama said. “But when it comes to our policy and the coalition that we’re putting together, our focus specifically is on [ISIS].”
In the interview, Obama said he should have been mindful of the optics of golfing after speaking on the killing of journalist James Foley last month, a move which drew fire from Republicans and puzzled looks from Democrats.
“I think that everyone who knows me, including I suspect the press, understands that you take this stuff in, and it’s serious business,” Obama said. “But part of this job is also the theater of it. It’s not something that always comes naturally to me, but it matters and I’m mindful of that.”