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June 13, 2014 04:55 PM

Thune: U.S. Has Role To Play In Iraq

Sioux Falls, SD

Senator John Thune agrees with President Obama that U.S. boots on the ground are not an option in Iraq.    Thune says the U.S. needs to explore other ways to help the Iraqis, short of sending in ground forces.

Thune was visiting a summer school class at O'Gorman High School just as President Obama discussed military options in Iraq.  He says the U.S. must clearly define its objectives there before deciding on a course of action.

The tranquil setting of an O'Gorman High School government class...

"I grew up in a little town called Murdo; anybody ever been there?" Thune asked.

...is far removed from the turmoil unfolding in Iraq.  

"That's an area of the world where there's always going to be a lot of tumult and the key for us to maintain a level of stability that it doesn't allow terrorist organizations to take root there," Thune said.

To that end, Senator John Thune says the U.S. should consider air strikes as a way of pinning down Islamic militants who threaten the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

"Maintaining some sort of no-fly-zone where you're just keeping those ground forces there at bay," Thune said.

Thune says Iraqi security forces, not American troops, need to take the lead in repelling the insurgents.

"I think the United States has a role to play, but one that's more aiding and assisting as opposed to actually being the primary force there," Thune said.

Thune says because so many South Dakotans served in the Iraq war, whatever the U.S. does in the days and weeks ahead needs to show that their deployments were not in vain.

"Where people can govern themselves is something that we want to be able to sustain and I think that's hopefully the legacy of those who have sacrificed here in South Dakota and around this country," Thune said.

Thune says there's also a political dimension to bringing stability to Iraq.  He says the country's prime minister is going to have to reach out to the minority Sunni Muslims who haven't had a voice in the Iraqi government.

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