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Obama expected to expand Islamic State offensive into Syria

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    President Obama spent this day trying to build support in Congress and overseas in the run-up to his nationally broadcast address. It's scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. And the "NewsHour" will provide live coverage.

    The president is now widely expected to expand the month-old air campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and extend it into Syria. He will lay out that strategy in his speech tonight.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    My fellow Americans…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It comes exactly one year since Mr. Obama addressed the nation on a possible military response to Syria's use of chemical weapons. Then, he sought congressional authorization.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But Congress and the public proved skeptical, and the plan was ultimately shelved when Syria agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal.

    This time, the president is not seeking formal approval of military action against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Instead, he's asking congressional leaders for other action, including funds to arm and train moderate rebel factions in Syria.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid backed the plan. And in biting terms, he charged Republicans are taking their cues from the wrong man in a rush to war.

    SEN. HARRY REID, (D) Majority Leader: Former Vice President Cheney was here yesterday giving the Republicans a pep talk. He's going to — he gave them advice on foreign policy. Please, Mr. President, please. Taking advice from Dick Cheney on foreign policy? That's a terrifying prospect. We should be learning from our past mistakes, not repeating them.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Cheney answered with equally tough talk in a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

    DICK CHENEY, Former Vice President of the United States: In a few hours, we will hear what he has in mind for the terrorist onslaught currently in Iraq. We can hope for and we should look for signs of a forceful, bold and immediate strategy to defeat ISIS. We can say already, however, that such a plan would mark an abrupt and dramatic departure from his record thus far.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Back in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took up that same theme, saying the president has been a rather reluctant commander in chief.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) Minority Leader: It's pretty clear to me at least that the American people fully appreciate the nature of the threat. After the beheadings of two American citizens, they don't want an explanation of what's happening. They want a plan. They want some presidential leadership.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    At the White House, the president sought support from lawmakers, and he telephoned Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

    Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad to meet with Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, and his cabinet.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: A new and inclusive Iraqi government has to be the engine of our global strategy against ISIL. And now that the Iraqi parliament has approved a new cabinet with new leaders and representation from all Iraqi communities, it's full speed ahead.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The new Iraqi leader also appealed for international aid against the Islamic State.

  • HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq:

    They are a challenge to the whole region, to the international community. They are coming to Iraq from across the border, from neighboring Syria. Of course, our role is to defend our country. But the international community is responsible to protect Iraq and protect Iraqis in the whole region.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    France responded by saying it will join in expanded airstrikes, if needed. Germany said it's sending weapons and armored vehicles to Kurdish forces in Iraq.

    There was also word the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China, will meet Monday in Paris on how to stabilize Iraq.

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