Last fall, as President Obama weighed airstrikes against Syria, deliberations followed a clear pattern: The president solicited scores of options, planners returned with possibilities, and, according to people involved, Obama would reply with the same question: And then what?
Over the last several days, with Obama mulling involvement in another Middle East conflict, this time in Iraq, that dynamic has held.
The result is a policy that so far has put on hold calls from the Iraqi government for U.S. airstrikes against Sunni Islamic militants who have seized territory north and west of Baghdad. Instead, aides say Obama is waiting for evidence that the Iraqi government, which is dominated by Shiites, is willing to reach political reconciliation with Sunni groups.
One senior official said the president is considering drone strikes, akin to those against alleged terrorist targets in Yemen, rather than rolling airstrikes like the shock-and-awe campaigns of the gulf wars. The president told congressional leaders Wednesday that he does not believe he needs their authorization for the actions he would take in Iraq, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the meeting.