CHICAGO (CBS) — As extremist militants tightened their grip on northern Iraq, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said he believes President Barack Obama isn’t up to the task of ending the violence and protecting American interests, and needs to overhaul his national security team.
The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized captures large swaths of northern Iraq, including Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. ISIS has posted graphic photos that appeared to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers. The group claims to h ave killed more than 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. has begun evacuating personnel from its embassy in Baghdad, with ISIS threatening to attack the Iraqi capital.
“I’m very concerned now that Iraq is turning into a modern version of Cambodia, with mass executions, and ISIS killing hundreds of people,” Kirk said Monday. “I’m very worried that the President doesn’t appear to be up to this job of protecting the United States. … If Iraq turns into a Cambodia-style killing field, then the U.S. will have a real big problem.”
Kirk said he thinks President Obama has the wrong national security team in place, particularly National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
“I should say that I agree with Senator (John) McCain that he has the wrong national security team,” Kirk said. On Friday, McCain said the president’s entire national security team should be fired.
The senator, a retired Navy reservist, said he fears Iran might take advantage of the situation in Iraq, and gain effective control of the country.
“The danger is if Iran has operational control of Iraq, then Iran has operational control of all the oil wealth of Iraq. Then the United States is put in more danger,” he said.
The senator said he would recommend a series of air strikes — coordinated with the Iraqi government — to prevent Iran from taking control of Iraq.
U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) termed Senator Kirk’s criticism a completely unfair statement.
“The problem is we should have never have gone into Iraq, a war that Senator Kirk supported. This was the principle mistake here,” said Schakowsky.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said the U.S. would be willing to talk to Iran about helping end the violence in Iraq, although senior Pentagon officials have said that would not include military coordination.
Kirk, however, said Obama does not have a good history of negotiating with Iran.
“The danger is, if you end up in a negotiation with Iran like we have been, the President tends to give too much to Iran, and he has now been negotiating with Iran,” Kirk said. “The record of the President with the Iranians is not good, especially in nuclear negotiations. I would say he is not up to this job.”
He also echoed U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism of the president’s handling of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine earlier this year.
“Graham cracked that one more call between Putin and Obama, and we’ll lose Alaska,” Kirk said.
Ironically, Graham has supported talking to the Iranians for help in preventing Baghdad from falling to ISIS forces.