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Coats: US inaction enabled Iraqi militants

– First Syria. Then Ukraine. And now Iraq.

“This is a broken record here,” Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said Tuesday.

Chaos and violence are rampant in parts of the world in part because the Obama administration has no strategy for quickly responding to them, Coats claimed. That inaction emboldens U.S. enemies and discourages its allies, he argued.

“It's frustrating to many of us (in Congress) that we find ourselves having to, in a sense, send signals to the White House that, ‘Mr. President, you need to do something; here are some suggestions.' I went through all of that personally with Crimea and Ukraine,” Coats said in a telephone interview.

The White House should have reacted by now to the waves of attacks against Iraq's Shiite-run government by Sunni insurgents who now threaten to invade Baghdad, according to Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“We're days late,” he said. “If we were going to do something, we should have headed 'em off at the pass before they took over a rather significant part of northern Iraq, city after city after city, with no response from the United States or from anyone else.”

Coats said President Barack Obama should have insisted on keeping U.S. security forces in Iraq after America's eight-year war there ended in 2011.

“I don't think there's any way that this minority extremist group, as brutal as they are, would have even attempted to take that on knowing the U.S. had the assets in place to try to support the Iraqis,” he said.

Both Coats and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Iraq's government must go on the offensive against the insurgents, led by the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, yet also make concessions to Sunnis.

“Any success now and in the future depends critically on the willingness of the Iraqi government to step up and take action to defend its sovereignty and protect its people,” Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday in an email.

“That must include not only military action by Iraqi forces to push back (ISIL), but also major changes to Iraq's central government that will ensure meaningful political inclusion for Iraq's religious and ethnic minorities,” Donnelly said. “While the U.S. must work with our international partners to help resolve the immediate crisis, there can be no long-term stability unless Iraq's own leadership changes course.”

Coats said the U.S. should urge Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “to be much more inclusive to the factions that have been left out of any kind of governing position. We've pressed him on that, and maybe now he's getting the message with the groups at the doorstep of Baghdad.”

Coats opposes any notion that the U.S. partner with Iran – “our avowed enemy” – to aid al-Maliki. And he said the Obama administration should tell leaders of Middle East nations friendly to the U.S. that “your populace has to step up and demand resistance and action against these extremist groups who are trying to impose a radical version of Sharia law and/or just power grabs.”