Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 | 11:03 a.m.
WASHINGTON — As Congress debates sending military aid to Iraq to help that country’s government stave off a civil war, U.S. congressional leaders are laying out limits on how far that help can go.
Helicopters, yes, they said. Troops, no.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner were both adamant this morning that while President Barack Obama should respond to recent al Qaeda uprisings in Fallujah by sending Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a fleet of Apache helicopters and other materiel, he should not consider dispatching U.S. troops.
“I don’t think that is called for at this point in time,” Boehner said. “But there is equipment and some services that would be very helpful to the Iraqis as they develop this counter-terrorism strategy, especially in Fallujah.”
Reid said U.S. officials were “going to be watching very closely what going on there [in Iraq] and we’ll help them, but there is never any hint of anyone in this administration talking about sending troops to Iraq.”
That, however, is about all Reid and Boehner agree on when it comes to Iraq and the United States’ ongoing involvement in trying to help manage the country’s continued instability.
In a press conference today, Boehner blamed the setbacks in Fallujah on Obama, for being too hands-off with Iraq.
“The U.S. has and will continue to have vital national interest in Iraq...It’s time that the president recognize this and get engaged,” Boehner said.
“Precious blood was spilled...helping Iraqis remove a brutal dictator,” he said. “That progress is now threatened. In the case of Fallujah, it’s been reversed. A status of forces agreement with Iraq should have been agreed to and this administration failed to deliver.”
An hour later, Boehner’s accusations had Reid seeing red as he came to the Obama administration’s defense.
“Blaming president Obama for Fallujah having fallen — that takes a lot of gall,” Reid said. “The agreement to withdraw from Iraq was not negotiated by Obama, it was negotiated by Bush.”
Former President George W. Bush signed the status of forces agreement governing the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2008; all phases of the actual withdrawal of troops from Iraq took place during Obama’s presidency.