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Washington debates response in Iraq

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ISIS militants have taken territory across northern Syria and Iraq and have closed to within 40 miles of  Baghdad. (Source: Radio Free Europe/CNN) ISIS militants have taken territory across northern Syria and Iraq and have closed to within 40 miles of Baghdad. (Source: Radio Free Europe/CNN)

ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ (Radio Free Europe/CNN) - The battle between Iraqi's military and militants continued on Wednesday at the country's main oil refinery, which was just one of many areas in conflict. Meanwhile, Washington debates whether or not to get involved.

President Barack Obama is taking up the issue with congressional leaders as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says Iraq has asked the U.S. for airpower.

ISIS militants in Iraq are moving even closer to the capital. They control areas in north and central Iraq. "Iraqis alone, they are in a very difficult position now," said Saleh al-Mutlak, Iraq's deputy prime minister.

Washington is staking out positions too.

"We have a request from the Iraqi government for airpower," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey said it's in the U.S. national security interest to counter the ISIS terrorists where they can be found. 

But some question how and why?

President Obama met with congressional leaders about Iraq. He has ruled out troops on the ground.

But airstrikes remain an option.

Military planners have a draft list of potential ISIS targets.

Republicans say it's not enough.

"The president has been watching what we've been watching for over a year as a situation in Iraq continued to be undermined yet nothing - nothing, has been done to try and reverse it," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH.

"Isn't it too late now to be sitting down and talking to members of Congress and basically saying let's look at the options?" U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-IN, asked Dempsey.

"Senator, it is only late if you suggest that we could have stopped it in some way," Dempsey responded. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV,  counters that Republicans are playing the blame game.

"Would they have preferred the U.S. stay in Iraq? Would they have preferred that our soldiers stayed in Iraq in harm's way?" Reid asked.

There are many questions about what to do next. So far, no answers have been made public.

Copyright 2014 Radio Free Europe via CNN. All rights reserved.

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