McCain and Graham slam Obama for Iraq violence
January 4th, 2014
06:13 PM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. craig richard lysy

    Warmongers to the end. Mark my words, hand the government over to Republicans and America will again begin invading Muslim countries with unfunded wars. God save us from men such as these.

    January 4, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  2. Vence

    I am wondering why these guys never said anything to W. before!

    January 4, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. john

    Obama has forgotten dat he is rulin america de world power in dat matter, if he play with de security of us dat mean he is not ruling well.

    January 4, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Ya, maybe we could get some more of our troops killed if we followed GOP kick brothers Cheney oil policies.THANKS GOP for all our troops deaths in Iraq !!!!!!!

    January 4, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  5. BK

    I was deployed to Iraq in 2009. I can tell you unequivocally that the security agreement that called for the US withdrawal by the end of 2011 was signed by President Bush in December 2008. The idea that the withdrawal and ensuing violence is somehow Obama's fault is beyond comprehension. These religious sects have been fighting for longer than I've been alive... certainly longer than our presence in Iraq. It's no more Obama's fault for this than it is the Pope's fault for the existence of rain.

    January 4, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. rs

    What!? Which incompetents engineered invading Iraq? Why, wasn't it Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and the bobbsie twins McCain and Lindsey?

    Perhaps if they wanted a secure and tranquil Iraq, they shouldn't have invaded the place; killed 125,000 innocent Iraqis; make anther 2 million Iraqis refugees; setting off a 4 year civil war; get 6,000 Americans killed and maim thousands more. Oh yeah, maybe getting their dictator killed helped destabilize Iraq just a little bit too.

    So, just what do the twins want to do? Make Iraq Texas East? Sorry, boys the secure Iraq ship sailed when you blew the place up.

    Republicans are so dangerously delusional.

    January 4, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  7. simplefaith

    We have stayed in Iraq long enough. My son is half blinded because of it. The region has been at war for two thousand years. There is unrest because of corruption and different tribes who want power. Our men and women are tired and after a decade of fighting, it is enough. We need to concentrate on our economy. Let our military rest. We almost went into a sink hole with climbing debts because of the war. Other countries don't get involved as the US do. Republicans stop blaming President Obama for the Iraq unrest. As history shows we cannot stop the ancient unrest in the region.

    January 4, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. sammy750

    Yes, it's all Obama fault. Not Graham, McCain or Bush who started the war as a fraud. These guys start wars, waste billions in tax payers money, but cannot win a war. They are the war criminals.

    January 4, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  9. sammy750

    Bush was going to create a Democracy there, what happened to that McCain and Graham, the 2 traitors.

    January 4, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Obama is a victim and that's the way he likes it

    January 4, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    Ms Lindsey and the fallen war "hero" together again looking for their next Benghazi.
    I don't remember these two nobodies questioning a lie of a war that has cost thousands of lives!
    It seems that the best congress, besides easier commute, is a closed for how many days of holiday congress (not that they ever do anything except try to repeal the ACA)

    January 4, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. Smitty

    But Obamma said they were on the run !!! Still cant believe he lied to a kid about his favorite food being broccoli, but what do you expect from the BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR winner !!! LOL You cant make this stuff up.

    January 4, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  13. Clarence

    These two warmongers don't realize the American public was not behind any further loss of American lives in this region. If it were not for the banging of the war drums over non existent WMDs, we would have never lost the amount of American lives to begin with.

    January 4, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  14. bcrunner

    Yeah... the bomb! bomb! bomb Iran guy has not had enough of war... he wanted us to be in Iraq for the next 100 years.... Both of them are so out of touch with the American public!!

    January 4, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  15. pal

    Here we go again!!!

    January 4, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  16. CaliLiberal

    Of course McCain and Graham are going to slam the President for anything. If it were up to Laurel and Hardy, I mean McCain and Graham, there is no place in the world we wouldn't be occupying or involved in a war. I wish they would just ride off into the sunset and collect their soon to be lavish and undeserved congressional pensions.

    January 4, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. skjtnc

    Incredible that these two try to blame this on Obama. Do they forget (Bush) who started this unwinnable situation in Iraq and Afghanistan? Sham on you McCain for blaming Obama for this crap after what happened to you Vietnam. Do you really think we should stay there forever losing more and more American lives?

    January 4, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  18. Gedge

    Perhaps the folks that lost their unemployment insurance last week because of the GOP can go over there and fight Al-Qaeda, you two chums

    January 4, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  19. Mark Bradford

    Let those two go over there and fight. Not one more brave serviceman should be sacrificed for that craphole.

    January 4, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  20. Ed Bazaar

    Really? How about all the gun nut GOPers go over on their own dime and take it back. How dare these guys say anything after getting us into that multi-$trillion mess.

    January 4, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  21. Craig Quirolo

    The majority of the American people do not want to continue with these endless wars. Maybe the Republican 1% flunkies do. I stand behind my President 99%...... do your math. Killing is not the answer, never has been never will be.

    January 4, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  22. jpmichigan

    Give me a break! Enough is enough. All the time spent training, money given, an American blood shed on a war that should not have been, just to put our claws into another country that doesn't know what to do with democracy and freedom for its people. It is time the people of Iraq to fend for themselves. They have oil that they promised to help pay for the riddance of Hussan, and have yet to do so.

    January 4, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Evergreen

    Wow! You mean we were not greeted as Liberators?! And Iraq's oil is not going to pay us back the Trillion dollars+ we borrowed to remove Saddam. We spent Billions rebuilding their infrastructure but our politicians will not spend a dime to rebuild our infrastructure. Did these pols learn nothing from Libya. These groups will turn on us.

    January 4, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  24. Chuck

    Really? I think the american public feels that we have spilled enough blood and squandered enough treasure there. Those people should be able to govern themselves and provide their own security by now, Although, they obviously can do neither and likely never will, whether we're there or not.

    January 4, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  25. Gurgyl

    Bull. These idiots are so pathetic. I slam both these idiots to have drained USA treasury on unfounded war with no WMD.
    Brainless guys need to be voted out. Be educated.

    January 4, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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