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Obama set to outline his offensive against IS militants

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Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama will deliver a speech to Americans and consult with lawmakers this week to sell his plan to go on the offensive against Islamic State militants, but is trying to head off public concern about another big military escapade.

Mr Obama said that in his remarks on Wednesday he would "describe what our game plan's going to be." He will meet congressional leaders on Tuesday to seek their support for his strategy to halt the militant Islamist group.

Obama indicated he did not believe he needed additional authorisation from Congress to carry out the plan, although he intends to consult with lawmakers and might seek approval for additional funds.

"I'm confident that I have the authorisation that I need to protect the American people," Mr Obama said. "But I do think it's important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have 'buy in', to debate it."

The president, who campaigned for the White House in 2008 on getting US troops out of Iraq, has struggled to articulate how he wants to address Islamic State, telling reporters last month that "we don't have a strategy yet" to tackle the group.

"I'm preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat from Isil," Mr Obama said in an TV interview, using an acronym for Islamic State. "The next phase is now to start going on some offence," he added, promising to "defeat" the group.

Mr Obama's comments also seemed tailored to head off the fears of some Americans of another full-scale war. For example, he ruled out sending US ground troops to fight the militants in Iraq or Syria.

"This is not the equivalent of the Iraq War," Mr Obama added."What this is, is similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years."

The speech underscores the degree to which Isil has become an urgent issue for the US. The Sunni militants have seized territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, declared a border-blurring Islamic caliphate and released grisly videos of the beheading of two US journalists it had held hostage.

Mr Obama authorised American air strikes in Iraq against Isil last month and US warplanes carried out strikes on militants menacing Iraq's Haditha Dam yesterday.

A video released last week of American freelance journalist Steven Sotloff being beheaded by the militants led to fresh calls from US lawmakers in both parties for a more aggressive approach. Republicans in Congress, which returns from its summer recess today, have blocked Mr Obama's proposals on a wide range of issues, but many back stronger action against Islamic State.

Mr Obama, however, may face resistance from liberal fellow Democrats if they feel his plan requires too big a military commitment.

Coalition

In the TV interview, conducted in Washington on Saturday and aired yesterday, Mr Obama said he wanted Americans to understand the nature of the threat and "have confidence that we'll be able to deal with it".

Mr Obama emphasised that the United States was not going it alone. Nine other countries have agreed to be "core" members of a coalition he spent time building last week at a NATO meeting in Wales.

"We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops," Mr Obama said.

Irish Independent