Obama warns of risks posed by Mideast militants with Western passports

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama acknowledged Sunday that militants fighting in Syria and Iraq pose a direct threat to the United States because many of them have Western passports that enable them to easily enter the country without visas.

“I think we have been under serious threat my entire presidency, and we have been under serious threat predating 9/11 from those who embrace this ideology,” Obama said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have to improve our surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence there. Special forces are going to have a role. And there are going to be times where we take strikes against organizations that could do us harm,” Obama said.

Militant fighters aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have overrun the military in parts of Iraq, threatening the capital of Baghdad in recent weeks and prompting the White House to dispatch 300 military advisors to help stabilize the region.

“They’re gaining strength in some places,” Obama said. “We’ve seen Europeans who are sympathetic to their cause traveling into Syria and now may travel into Iraq, getting battle-hardened. Then they come back. They’ve got European passports. They don’t need a visa to get into the United States.”

Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., said that as many as 100 Americans and “thousands” of European passport holders have joined the fight in Syria. In response, the U.S. is working to increase security at overseas airports.

“Any of these people can come back to the United States and they can carry out the type of attack that they’re being trained in in Syria,” King said on the same show. “All we have to do is risk one or two of them and we could have a very, very lethal attack here in the U.S.”

Whether Congress will need to give its approval to authorize the White House’s military actions in Iraq remains open for debate. Many lawmakers are reluctant to vote on the issue ahead of the midterm elections when they will be seeking support from Americans weary after a decade of war.

“I believe the president has to come back to Congress,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He should come back to Congress. And I can assure you there’s no appetite for us to get boots on the ground and go back into that country in any way, shape or form.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Car crashes into Everett apartment, displacing residents

No one was injured in the crash late Friday, according to Everett police.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read