Knocking down the idea of imminent air strikes against Islamic State rebels operating from Syria, President Obama on Thursday made clear he is not ready to expand U.S. military action in Iraq.
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse," the President told reporters in the White House Briefing Room.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Mr. Obama said of striking Islamic State targets in Syria.
Republicans in Congress, many of whom have called for action against Islamic State camps in Syria, immediately jumped on the President's remark.
"That's obvious and increasingly unacceptable," said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
Other Republicans eagerly piled on as well.
As for whether or not the Congress needed to be consulted, the President made clear that there was no rush to attack IS forces in Syria, saying he had directed top military brass to present him a "range of options."
Obama rebukes Russia, but won't label it an "invasion"
With mounting evidence that more Russian military assets were moving into Ukraine, the President lashed out at Russian leader Vladimir Putin, directly blaming Moscow for violence in the east and southeast of Ukraine.
"Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine," said the President, who said Russia has trained and armed separatists in that region.
But, when asked directly by a reporter if he would label this an "invasion," the President did not embrace that word.
"I consider the actions we've seen in the last week a continuation of what we've seen take place for months now," the President said, as he again said that diplomatic efforts - and maybe more economic sanctions - would be the choice of the U.S. and other western nations.
When asked if that doesn't work, whether U.S. military action might be on the table, the President quickly snuffed out that idea.
"We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem," Mr. Obama added, noting that Ukraine is not a NATO member.
Ukraine will be on the agenda next week when Mr. Obama travels to Europe; he will meet with Baltic leaders first in Estonia, and then travel to Wales for a NATO summit.
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