Videos of the speech :
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday night that he was ordering a significantly expanded military campaign against Sunni militants in the Middle East that includes American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of nearly 500 more military advisers to Iraq. But he sought to dispel fears that the United States was embarking on a repeat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a televised speech to the nation from the State Floor of the White House, Mr. Obama said the United States was recruiting a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He warned that the effort would require years of sustained effort.
“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Mr. Obama said. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” ISIL is an alternative name for ISIS.
The president took pains to distinguish between the military action he was putting in motion and the two wars begun by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. He likened this campaign to the highly targeted airstrikes that the United States has carried out for several years against terrorism suspects in Yemen and Somalia, few of which have been made public.
After enduring harsh criticism for saying in a news conference two weeks ago that he did not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria, Mr. Obama sketched out a plan that will involve heightened American training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels to fight the militants. Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide bases for the training of those forces.
The White House has asked Congress to authorize the plan to train and equip rebels — something the Central Intelligence Agency has been doing covertly and on a much smaller scale — but Mr. Obama said he had the authority necessary to expand the broader campaign.
“These American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” Mr. Obama pledged, adding that the broader mission he was outlining for American military forces “will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
For all of Mr. Obama’s efforts to reassure the public, his remarks were a stark admission of the threat posed by the militants, whose lightning rampage through Iraq and Syria and videotaped beheading of two American journalists have reignited fears of radical terrorism.
The president’s remarks, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will thrust the United States into a civil war in Syria that he had long sought to avoid, and will return the country to a significant military presence in Iraq, from which Mr. Obama withdrew the last American combat soldiers at the end of 2011.
The president delivered his speech after a frenzied effort to line up the support of partners worldwide to combat ISIS. Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Obama called King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to enlist his support for a plan to bolster the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels.
“The president and the king agreed on the need for increased training and equipping of the moderate Syrian opposition,” the White House said in an unusually extensive briefing for reporters about the call. “President Obama welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support for this program.”
Mr. Obama is acting against a backdrop of rapidly shifting public opinion as polls show that a large majority of Americans now favor military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, even as they express deep misgivings about the president’s leadership on the world stage.
Mr. Obama is also facing political challenges on Capitol Hill, where Republicans lawmakers, initially reluctant to demand congressional authorization of military action, have begun agitating for a vote even as some Democrats warn of a stampede to war
President Obama’s speech on ISIS
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