Obama tries to sell plan to defeat Islamic State

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama stepped up his bid to convince Americans he has a plan to defeat the Islamic State, meeting top congressional leaders and scheduling a primetime speech for Wednesday.

Obama will summon the symbolic weight of a televised address to the nation at 9:00 pm (0100 GMT Thursday), speaking from the ceremonial state floor of the White House.

The speech will attempt to redress criticism that he has been slow to respond to the militant group´s seizure of a haven in Syria and Iraq, amid fears fighters armed with Western passports could train their sights on the US homeland.

Obama will enlist public support for a new military venture abroad at a poignant moment — the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which pitched America into a Middle East conflagration he has spent much of his presidency trying to escape.

Obama has consistently said though that there will be no ground troops in Iraq, and that is not expected to change.

“The president will lay out what he clearly sees as American interests in this situation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in his daily briefing Tuesday.

“He´ll talk about the risks that the United States faces, and he´ll talk about the strategy that he has put together to confront those risks, to mitigate them, and ultimately to degrade and destroy ISIL,” he said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

Earnest would not say whether the president will announce he intends to expand US air strikes against IS targets in Iraq into the group´s stronghold in Syria.

While Obama is expected to prepare Americans for a prolonged engagement with IS, he will not establish a definite timeline for action, Earnest said.