Kurdish Peshmerga troops participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in a village on the outskirts of the province of Nineveh near the border province of Dohuk, Iraq. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
The United States conducted a new round of air strikes
against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq and moved
some US diplomats out of its consulate in Arbil as
Republicans slammed President Barack Obama's intervention as
Republican Representative Peter King of New York, echoing
other critics of Obama's policy in Iraq, criticized Obama for
insisting he will not send US ground troops to combat the
militants, adding the United States has been too timid so
"We should take nothing off the table. We (should) start off
with massive air attacks," King, a member of the US House of
Representatives Homeland Security Committee, told NBC'S "Meet
the Press" programme.
"I think doing them from aircraft carriers is limiting them.
We should use bases in the area so we can have much more
sustained air attacks. We should be aggressively arming the
Kurds," King added.
Last week, Obama launched a campaign of US air strikes and
humanitarian air drops in areas where militants, who have
seized large swathes of Iraq since June, are threatening
religious minorities and encroaching on Arbil, the capital of
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
The moves are the first direct US military action in Iraq
since Obama pulled US troops out in 2011. Obama, who
campaigned on ending the long, bloody US war there, has been
reluctant to wade back into Iraq. He has stressed the overall
solution for the country rests with Iraqi political leaders
and is urging them to end long-running feuds and form an
On Sunday, the US military said US planes had conducted air
strikes on Islamic State targets for the third straight day.
The latest strikes aimed to help Kurdish Peshmerga forces
defend Arbil, the site of a US consulate and a US-Iraqi joint
military operations center.
The US military's Central Command said drone aircraft and
fighter jets fired on armed vehicles and a mortar position
belonging to fighters from Islamic State, which is an
offshoot of al Qaeda.
The State Department's announcement several hours later that
it had removed some staff from the nearby Arbil consulate
showed US concern over the severity of the threat to US
personnel and to Iraq's viability as a state.
In June, the United States moved some staff from the giant,
bunker-like US embassy in Baghdad to Arbil, which previously
had been known for better security than the Iraqi capital, to
the southern city of Basra and to Amman, Jordan.
On Sunday, the department said it had sent "a limited number
of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the
Consulate General in Arbil to the Consulate General in Basra
and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman."
It did not say how many staff had left Arbil or how many
remained. About 40 US military personnel are now in Arbil at
a joint US-Iraq military operations center.
The White House is still grappling with political fallout
from a 2012 attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya, that
killed the US ambassador there and three other Americans.
Obama said on Saturday a top priority was to keep Americans
safe, adding, "We're not moving our embassy anytime soon.
We're not moving our consulate anytime soon."
Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican voice on
foreign policy, called for air strikes not only in Iraq but
in Syria, where the Islamic State has gained strength since
the conflict in Syria began in 2011. "They have erased the
boundaries between Iraq and Syria," McCain told the CNN
program "State of the Union."
McCain said he would be providing "as much training and
equipment as I can" to the Kurds and rushing equipment to
"This is turning into - as we predicted for a long time - a
regional conflict which does pose a threat to the security of
the United States of America," said McCain, calling Obama's
response to the Iraqi crisis "clearly very, very ineffective,
to say the least."
Appearing on the program "Fox News Sunday," Senator Lindsey
Graham of South Carolina, another prominent Republican critic
of Obama's foreign policy, said, "His responsibility as
president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the
offensive against (Islamic State forces) ... they are coming
US military aircraft have also dropped relief supplies to
tens of thousands of Yazidis who have gathered on Mount
Sinjar, seeking shelter from the insurgents.
Senator Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat,
said the United States should be trying to prevent genocide
in Iraq while also helping Kurds. But he said ultimately the
Iraqi government should provide security for its people, and
that the United States should not step up its use of military