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Chairman Menendez Statement on President Obama’s Speech on ISIL

Washington DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement following President Obama’s speech tonight on ISIL.

“ISIL is a savage, blood-thirsty organization carrying out a reign of terror across large swaths of Iraq and Syria. This terrorist organization’s capacity to threaten U.S. national security is growing. Tonight, President Obama showed important leadership in laying out an initial plan to confront the threat from ISIL before this barbaric group has the ability to execute a large-scale attack against U.S. interests at home or abroad. As the President accurately stated, “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

“I agree with the President’s efforts to work with allies in the region who also face violent and destabilizing threats from ISIL to join us and our allies in destroying this real and growing threat.  This effort will require the engagement of the U.S. military and international allies to target ISIL positions and assets. The NATO coalition announced at the Wales Summit last week is vital to this effort.

“We will need our regional partners to do their share to destroy the ISIL threat.  In Syria, the U.S., NATO allies, and others will need to equip the moderate, vetted Syrian opposition coalition – a position the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted over one year ago in passing bipartisan legislation that I authored. 

“In Iraq, the formation of an inclusive government this week is another important development, and it is critical that a non-sectarian, broad-based governing agenda be implemented by Prime Minister Abadi and his cabinet. This will allow the greatest opportunity for Iraqi Security Forces, working in partnership with Kurdish security forces, to build on U.S. military action and push ISIL out of Iraq.  

“Tonight’s speech will be followed by public hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee and classified briefings to provide additional information about this strategy and ensure that we provide the President with the tools he needs to address the ISIL threat.  It is my view that the President possesses existing authorities to strike ISIL in the short term, but that a prolonged military campaign will require a congressionally-approved Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Following the upcoming series of hearings and briefings, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin drafting a tailored AUMF to provide the President with the additional authority required by the War Powers Resolution to continue operations to thwart the ISIL threat.

“I look forward to learning more about the President's plan in the upcoming days and weeks as I host briefings and hearings on the situation in Iraq and Syria in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."