McCain and Graham slam Obama for Iraq violence
January 4th, 2014
06:13 PM ET
12 months ago

McCain and Graham slam Obama for Iraq violence

Washington (CNN) - As the Iraqi army and al Qaeda-linked militants battle for control of the city of Falluja, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are slamming the Obama administration for its Iraq policy.

More than two years after the administration failed to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq and withdrew all American combat troops from the country, the two senior Republican senators are blaming President Barack Obama for the violence erupting there this week.


"While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the administration cannot escape its share of the blame. When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever," said McCain, of Arizona, and Graham, of South Carolina, in a statement.

Iraq's Shiite-led government sent military forces into Sunni-dominated Anbar province in the west to end anti-government protests late last week.

There were violent protests in response, and the ensuing fighting has pitted government forces against al-Qaeda linked groups, with Sunni tribesmen in between.

It's the kind of chaos that McCain and Graham allege is partially Obama's fault.

"The Administration must recognize the failure of its policies in the Middle East and change course. America has lost time, options, influence, and credibility over the past five years, and we cannot afford to remain disengaged any longer," their statement said.

The administration addressed these charges at the State Department briefing Friday, dismissing the notion that the U.S. abandoned Iraq.

"Let's be clear who's responsible for the violence. It's the terrorists who were behind it," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. "That's why we are partnering with the Iraqi government very closely to fight this shared threat. At the end of the day, we can certainly help them fight it, but we also want to help them build their own capability to do so themselves."

When asked specifically about the status of forces agreement, Harf pushed back hard, arguing that U.S.-Iraqi relations are strong and highlighting the recent sale of weapons, including Hellfire rockets and drones, to substantiate that claim.

"Just because we don't have troops on the ground doesn't mean we don't have a continuing close partnership with the Iraqi government," she added. "We very much have a close and continuing partnership, and we'll keep working with them on this joint threat."

To McCain and Graham, the problem is wider than Iraq policy; they attacked the administration's approach to the civil war in Syria, as well.

"[The administration] has sat by and refused to take any meaningful action, while the conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives, driven a quarter of the Syrian population from their homes, fueled the resurgence of al Qaeda, and devolved into a regional conflict that now threatens our national security interests and the stability of Syria's neighbors, especially Iraq," they said.

The administration acknowledged the role Syria's civil war has played in destabilizing Iraq, but reiterated the difficulty of ending the nearly three-year-old war.

"The threat of terrorism and extremism has increased as a direct result of the atmosphere the Assad regime has created in Syria, the fact that they have decided to engage in violence against their own people and really create a security vacuum has led to a very serious situation where terrorists like al Qaeda affiliated or people that claim ideology with al Qaeda can flourish," said Harf.

"Obviously, that's why we've said that we need to move quickly to end the civil war there, even though it's very, very complicated and hard to do."

–CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Simon Hernandez-Arthur contributed to this report.


Filed under: Iraq • John McCain • Lindsey Graham • Obama administration
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. nate

    a bad navy pilot and a jag officer claiming to know something about military strategy

    January 5, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  2. drake mallard

    is the same John McCain that on 2008 mocked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, recently for saying that he'd keep some U.S. troops in Iraq if al Qaida established a base there. Obama retorted that, "There was no such thing as al Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade.

    January 5, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham supported Iraq war
    Iraq war draw Al Qaeda into Iraq, Saddam Hussein hated Al Qaeda
    So Blame your self

    January 5, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. Name ajagbe rasaq

    let peace rain .... Cal 4 peace amonge d opposition party . Yoruba adage says peace 4 three peace 4 d bird.

    January 5, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. Liz the First

    Proof positive the repugs want endless war. so much for being 'followers' of the Prince of Peace. War is profitable for the wealthy so let's keep them going forever, regardless of the cost in blood and treasure to this country. can we imagine what the money spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars could have done for THIS COUNTRY?

    January 5, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. JM

    This two old men would like nothing better than to get us into more wars – exactly what should we do in Syria? Send weapons to rebel groups who are possibly allied with terrorists? Send troops for another war we can't afford where we lose more young men for a battle that IS NOT OURS??? And as for Iraq, we left to protect our troops who would have been vulnerable has they stayed without the proper agreements in place. We shouldn't have been there in the first place, bu these two wish we were STILL there spending money and losing lives. Can't stand these two war mongerers.

    January 5, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. MMCinMPLS

    MaCain and Graham have never found a conflict they don't want us to enter. Both voted for invasion of Iraq, now they want to continue pouring blood and money across the entire middle east.. Boots on the ground, or air strikes will never resolve anything in that area of the world. Every decision the US makes relative to middle east revolves around Israel, and oil, and has since the 50"s. Until the Palestine question is resolved,and the Arabs agree to a peace treaty with Israel; Israel agrees to stop building settlements, recognize Palestine as either a state, or provide more power sharing with occupants, nothing will change. Both MCain and Graham or nothing but lackeys for defense industry and Pentagon.

    January 5, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  8. rs

    One question for the twins: So, in your opinion, The President has not handled Iraq to your satisfaction and the presentation of that is the newly erupting civil war. So, what's the solution?

    The next question is- what would you support?

    The truth is, no matter what the President does, the "not so loyal" opposition represented by the twins are certain to fight or filibuster it, or complain he is a "dictator" or "leading from behind" depending upon the phases of the moon.

    The truth is that morally, as a nation, we broke Iraq, and so we ought to be responsible for fixing it. However, in breaking Iraq, the Republicans also managed to break America-with crippling overspending and an incalculably expensive war and recession.

    We all know how Republicans feel about fixing that. I imagine they'd much rather see America resemble the disaster that is Iraq before they would work for the benefit of the vast majority of Americans.

    Thus, this is just more mindless bashing of our President by the twins. Nothing more, nothing less.

    January 5, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. John Geheran

    This "AQ resurgence", if nothing else, kills the myth that their past violence was due to "US presence" in Iraq. As history has clearly shown, they just move on to the next excuse to justify their real reasons for their relentless violence: world domination, rule under Shari'a law and re-establishment of a global caliphate. There you have it.

    January 5, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Donna

    Obama'd incompetence is now showing in foreign affairs. His total failure to get a status of forces agreement will result in the loss of all prograss in Iraq. AQ is now there and Iran as well. All because Obama left a total void. Well now it is being filled. Obama thinks we are just too big and bad and the world is best left to others to influence. And as a result, we see Iraq and Syria being taken over and destablized.

    January 5, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Dallas

    McCain needs to retire and Graham needs to be defeated in November. Every time I think John McCain is doing and saying some positive things, he turns around and once again shows his true colors.

    January 5, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. jetty

    With Obama, it's always about political expediency.

    January 5, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Luther Brixton

    McCain & Graham are right! Who was the colossal moron who decided to attack a sovereign nation for no legitimate reason?! Whoever that person & that party was need to be obliterated from the face of the earth!

    January 5, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Don in albuquerque

    More words of wisdom from Howdy and Doody.

    January 5, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    Why not we dump these two in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in Pakistan, come back....good idea.

    January 5, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Tony

    The Republicans have never seen any war that they did not think American troops should not be involved in. Republicans it seems get richer with each war they involve America in. Have you ever heard McCain or Graham speak up to keep America out of any war, I have never seen it.

    January 5, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. amazing

    So we should engage in a war we should have never been involved with in the first place. These two clowns are out of touch with reality.

    January 5, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Moderate Voter

    McCain and Graham–we will fight any country anywhere anytime. Just don't send our loves ones to do it.

    January 5, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. TBONE

    When November comes people, remember to vote these two incompetents out.

    January 5, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  20. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    More advice from Little Shirley Temple and Grandpa Munster!

    January 5, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  21. Rusty Krus

    Why not blame Obama for the Lindberg kidnapping you obsolete windbags?

    January 5, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  22. rs

    It does occur to me that what we might be seeing in the twin's statement is the embodiment of the Republican Party's economic stimulus and jobs bill.

    Another war! Perfect! Halliburton will make a fortune, we'll keep our soldiers busy (and employed!), and we can cut taxes for the rich again… remember: "Deficits don't matter".

    The twins: the real reason Congress needs drug testing.

    January 5, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  23. HemiHead66

    These 2 knuckle heads never waste an opportunity to do the Obama-bash. Like we're going to baby-sit the whole Middle East on the taxpayers dime forever.

    January 5, 2014 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  24. Larry in Houston

    LOL – Are You Kidding Me ?

    ""John McCain and Lindsey Graham are slamming the Obama administration for its Iraq policy""

    How come these 2 clowns didn't "slam" the previous regime for going into Iraq ?? LOL

    This shows the arrogance and – "their wrong" & "we're right" of the republican party, If something similar involves them – then they go and slam the "other" administration......( pathetic, isn't it )

    SO – Now tell me, I seem to forget – How many countries & places all over the world do we have to keep a military presence ?? and for life, at that.....or till the end of time, most likely....

    Yep, that's right, it's a damn good thing that we didn't have a republican as our POTUS, we would have needed a "presence" in Syria by now, and for the end of time.....Pitiful I tell ya, just pitiful.....

    How about the DMZ ?? we've go to keep the "peace" between North Korea & South Korea.....I mean, think about it.....How many places on this globe does the good 'ole U.S. of A. have to constantly keep military presence ?

    No wonder the people are hoping we get the Rand & Ron Paul type of regime....People in this country is sick & tired of spending so much money to corrupt governments (Karzide, for instance) and the list goes ON. Seems like every thing, and every body is paid off, in one – or some way /shape / or form .....It's amazing to me that we have a bunch of pathetic losers in congress

    January 5, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
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