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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 19th, 2014
05:19 PM ET

Sen. Chambliss: America's 'oil-driven' economy needs a stable Iraq

(CNN) – President Barack Obama said on Thursday he is prepared to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to "assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces."

Obama added that "American forces will not be returning to combat" but will help Iraqis "take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well."

The President is under pressure to help the embattled Iraqi government stave off a lightning advance toward Baghdad by Sunni fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, says there are "a number of security interests that America has in the whole region." But he identified one specific, perhaps controversial, reason for U.S. troops in Iraq: oil.

"Our economy is still oil-driven. And it's important that in that part of the world – not just in Iraq, but in that part of the world – that we have as much stability as possible," said Chambliss.

Last week, ISIS militants seized parts of Baiji, a small town on the main highway to Mosul where Iraq's largest oil refinery is located, a concerning development for Chambliss.

If militants seize oil refineries in Iraq, "then you're going to see the price of gas in America increase more than it should," said Chambliss.

The observation that the U.S. should become militarily involved in Iraq because of gas prices will be upsetting to many Americans.

"We should not go to war for cheaper gasoline, but our economy is driven by that, and that's why providing stability in that part of the world is important to us," said Chambliss.

Instability breeds terrorism, said the Georgia Republican.

"We're seeing terrorists being able to be trained to carry out missions against America and Americans," said Chambliss. "This is one more complex issue, but certainly the issue of oil is part of the complexity of the issue."

Pressed as to whether ISIS is capable of carrying out an attack on U.S. soil, Chambliss said Americans need to understand "we are still at war with the terrorist community."

"These are some of the terrorists that we simply have got to carry the fight to on their soil, and not on our soil," said Chambliss.

For more of our interview with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, check out the video above.

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