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Senator: Obama may be too cautious with militants

Aug. 31, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein says President Obama may be too cautious in his approach to dealing with Islamic State militants.

The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the Defense and State departments have been putting together a response to the threat.

The California Democrat says she has seen nothing to compare to the viciousness of the militants who have overrun large portions of Iraq, killed civilians and beheaded American journalist James Foley. The Islamic State group has financing, military structure and weapons unlike any other militants, she said.

“This is a group of people who are extraordinarily dangerous,” Feinstein said in an interview that aired Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And they’ll kill with abandon.”

Obama said Friday that he did not yet have a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State group, a remark that brought criticism from Democrats and Republicans. In an interview published early this year by The New Yorker, the president appeared to minimize the Islamic State group by comparing it to a junior varsity basketball team. The White House later said he was speaking about a different threat posed by a range of extremists across the world.

Feinstein said she thought the basketball analogy was wrong — “I think it’s a major varsity team” — but would not say whether she thought not having a strategy yet, as Obama acknowledged on Friday, projected weakness from the White House.

“I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious,” she said. “Maybe in this instance, too cautious. I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together. And so hopefully, those plans will coalesce into a strategy.”

As for Russia’s incursions into Ukraine, Feinstein said she doubted that economic sanctions would bring about a change in its actions. Secretary of State John Kerry should talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said.

“I think this is deeply personal with him,” she said of Putin. “And I think he’s calling the shots himself. And he’s enjoying intensely high favorability in his country. People say, ‘Well, just wait till the sanctions bite and the economy slips.’ I don’t think so.

“The Russians are very brave and very long-suffering,” she said. “And they will tough out any economic difficulty.”

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