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Owens “very reluctantly” supports limited U.S. airstrikes in Iraq

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WATERTOWN — U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said Friday that his position has not changed regarding U.S. involvement in Iraq despite bipartisan support for airstrikes there authorized by President Barack Obama.

At the White House on Thursday night, Mr. Obama announced that he had authorized both humanitarian aid in the country, which has been thrown back into turmoil by militant groups, and targeted airstrikes to protect American personnel in the city of Irbil, where diplomats and military advisers are stationed.

Mr. Owens said he “very reluctantly” supports the actions to protect American personnel but was skeptical of the long-term viability of the operation.

“I’m simply not convinced that we’re getting involved in a situation that will, A, be in our national security interests; or B, have a long-term positive impact,” Mr. Owens said.

Convoys operated by the militants aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been approaching the city of Irbil, where the United States operates a consulate.

With the airstrikes designed to prevent these forces from reaching the city, Mr. Obama also announced that he would send humanitarian aid and military support to a group of ethnic minorities, including the ancient Yezidi sect, trapped on a mountain and beseigned by militants.

Food and water will be delivered to the civilians on the mountain and military support will be provided to Iraqi forces attempting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, Mr. Obama said.

Earlier this summer, as ISIS forces streamed across the Syrian border and toward Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, Mr. Owens said he would oppose “boots on the ground” intervention in the country and would likely oppose any other kind of U.S. involvement.

That hasn’t changed, according to the congressman.

“We may have a very different situation in 24 or 48 hours. We’ll keep on top of it, but basically my position hasn’t moved since earlier this summer,” Mr. Owens said.

DOD video of air strikes, humanitarian supply air drops

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