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Republicans call for broader air campaign in Iraq, Syria

US Senator John McCain takes questions during a press conference in Hanoi, on August 8, 2014
US Senator John McCain takes questions during a press conference in Hanoi, on August 8, 2014

Republican hawks called Sunday for a broader air campaign against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria to head off a threat to the US homeland, with one warning he sees "an American city in flames."

Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, in separate television appearances, criticized President Barack Obama as not going far enough in launching limited air strikes this week to protect refugees and American interests in Iraq's northern Kurdish region.

Both insisted the advances made by Islamic State militants presented a direct threat to the United States, citing warnings by US intelligence chiefs of the heightened danger they pose to the US homeland.

"I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorist ability to operate in Syria and Iraq," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee from South Carolina, said on Fox News Sunday.

"To change that threat, we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense," he said.

Obama, who presided over the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, has vowed he will not order US troops back in and insists US options are limited without an inclusive unity government in Baghdad.

But Obama's Republican critics contended the threat posed by IS is "metastisizing as we speak," as McCain put it on CNN's State of the Union.

McCain said he would expand the air strikes to hit IS forces in Syria as well as Iraq, equip and train the Kurds, and assist the Free Syrian Army, the western-backed rebels fighting the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

"They're coming here," Graham said of the IS militants. "This is not just about Baghdad, not just about Syria. It's about our homeland.

"If we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages," he said of Obama.

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