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. GOP = Greed Over People

    We taught the Iraqi army "how to fish", now they are on their own!

    Or does that just apply to the 1.3 million unemployed American citizens?

    These two flesh peddlers are always trying to make a buck for the GOP war machine, off the dead bodies of young Americans. OLD soldiers start wars, young soldiers die in them.

    January 4, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  2. Harry Balzak

    More failure from the worst Pesident ever.

    Could this Fraud be any more clueless?

    January 4, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. Tim in San Diego

    Totally disingenuous of McCain and Graham. The withdrawal of US troops was per the agreement between the US and Iraq governments, and was negotiated by GWB.

    But hey, we could always re-invade, and I'm sure the Republicans would be only too happy to raise taxes to pay for it. Maybe they'd even volunteer their grandkids to fight.

    January 4, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  4. Tim in San Diego

    Totally disingenuous of McCain and Graham. The withdrawal of US troops was per the agreement between the US and Iraq governments, and was negotiated by GWB.

    But hey, we could always re-invade, and I'm sure the Republicans would be only too happy to raise taxes to pay for it. Maybe they'd even volunteer their grandkids to fight.

    January 4, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  5. croaton999

    Obama ultimately never managed to negotiate an agreement to allow any American troops to remain and help in Iraq. I bet he wishes that he had now. Al quetta is alive and doing well in Iraq eh?

    January 4, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  6. fuready

    If they want to continue this useless pursuit, put them both in uniform and send them over to Iraq.

    January 4, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Pretty rich coming from the party who said we'd be greeted as liberators, Iraqi oil would pay for the war, they'd be surprised if it lasted 6 weeks (let alone 6 months) and whose initial reaction to the insurgency was that it was just a blip on the radar ..:

    January 4, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    These two idiots never should have allowed Bush to invade Iraq. Don't blame Obama, go after Bush and Cheney for starting this nightmare!

    January 4, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    So, Frick and Frack wanted our precious military to stay in Iraq, without assurances of immunity from prosecution.

    Big talk from small minded people. McCain should know better, and I bet he does, but he is too "Republican" to
    admit it. Shame on him. Graham is desperate and he looks it.

    January 4, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  10. Tony in Maine

    Of course they do. They had nothing to do with the mess in the Middle East. It's all Obama's fault.

    Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran...

    Then they could blame Obama for that too. What a pair to draw to. Better off discarding or just folding.

    January 4, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  11. Mike in Texas

    Thank goodness McCain wasn't elected President. We would we be in worse debt and in probably in at least 6 conflicts. These two are nothing but war hawks. We should have never been in Iraq to begin with.

    January 4, 2014 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  12. Thomas

    We need more Iraqi refugees in California ,

    After all, this is the same John McCain who called Ahmed Chalabi a "patriot,"

    January 4, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  13. Name Ali

    First I'm not fun of al Maliky goverment but for the last 2 years since the American troops left Irag The AlQuadea increase their attack and killing against the Iraqian civilian . Myfriend there's one missing point in the
    Equation to this day most of us left in the dark no one knows who this Criminal organisation support their crime campaign. Around the world standing to organise Army have All type of Weapons and money now think start to come to surface. The gulf state's led by the Saudis Regime those which publicly denounced AlQuadea But the realities they are the one's harboring them provided them with every things I wish the international Community to wake up and stand and exposed this fascist regime bring justice to all trorrist victims Around the world thank u..

    January 4, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  14. ted

    these two warhawk blowhards need to get a grip. We should never have invaded the country in the first place and it became exceedingly clear that Bush and Rumsfeld had no plan on how to manage and keep the peace. Bush handed the issue, undealt with, to Obama in 2009. What exactly do you think he could have done different than he has? Nothing. He did the right thing in getting us out of a place we should never have been. the Iraqis need to step up and take control. Had McCain won in 2008, he had a plan to stay in Iraq for 100 years. 100 YEARS of deficit spending, but GOPers would rather spend tax payer money on other countries rather than extend unemployment benefits or provide healthcare to the 9%. Graham and McCain are simpleton blowhards.

    January 4, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    I don't think Obama is to blame for two groups of Muslims who have hated each other for centuries. Only Iraqis themselves can choose to live in peace.

    January 4, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  16. Christopher Atkins

    Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain, are you forgetting the responsibility to be placed upon President George W. Bush for driving us headfirst into Iraq on the basis of WMD's that were never found, and then toppled the Dictator whose iron fist was keeping Al Qaeda in check for decades, only to place hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the country with rising death tolls every single year? So quickly we forget.

    January 4, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. HJA

    McCain's solution to any crisis in the Middle East is invade. Send advisors, send weapons, when that doesn't work send troops. Why does the US always have to try and control the world? As for Graham, what he says means nothing. It's all double talk.

    January 4, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  18. JJ5308

    These are two complete fn idiots. John McCain brought Sarh Palin to the forefront, voted for this war n is tryin to guts into another war. He needs to go to hell quickly!!!!! The other one is just a damn fool!

    January 4, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  19. concernedGrndma

    Let these two go over there personally and shoot and be shot at. But please leave our young soldiers at home. Enough of them have died there already. And for what? There is nothing In Iraq worth the blood of my grandsons.

    January 4, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  20. Joe Smith

    I have an idea … Graham and McCain should volunteer to go to Iraq (or Syria) and fight for whichever side they want. As for American troops … no way! They (the Iraqis) don't want us there, and I second their opinion. I don't want our troops in harm's way there, or any other country in the mid-East, either.

    January 4, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  21. Elliot J. Stamler

    The American people overwhelmingly demanded our departure from Iraq-in 2008 candidate McCain said he would keep our army there indefinitely. It was one reason he lost; now he and Sen. Graham blame the president. I can and do fault the president on his general middle east foreign policies and I never approach foreign policy from a partisan standpoint but you can not wage a long war when the majority of Americans oppose it. Sens. McCain and Graham have not learned that lesson from Vietnam. Mr.McCain still is angry he lost his presidential bid and Mr. Graham is desperate to do anything, like attacking the president, to protect his political flank from the even further ultra right-wing nutcase tea party fascists already running against him in his forthcoming primary election in S.C.

    January 4, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  22. jimatmad

    These dunces led the drumbeat for us a war of choice in a nation that had not harmed us.

    That war of choice that Mr McCain and Mr Graham led us into led to the deaths of over 4,000 brave Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

    They need to shut the ef up. This small skirmish is a tiny residual remnant of their own botched decision.

    January 4, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  23. panjok

    Pick which side you want on McCain because it seems you have been holding Obama's balls for the past couple of years! You are definitely not a Conservative or a Republican! And as far as you worrying about the vacuum being filled by our enemies and that it "would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security ***interests***"! The only thing you are worried about is some oil wells! Those oil wells are probably owned by the same people who pay for your campaigns! Your, and the rest of the "fake politicians" time is coming to an end! People are feed up and it won't be long before it boils over! We do not care about Iraq because they will still be fighting 1000 years from now! This is nothing but more propaganda from the worlds best at it....The United States of America!

    January 4, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  24. Rosco Bell

    OMG! Are these men as dense as they appear to be? It's Obama's fault? Give us a break! This is a direct result of the Bush cabal's inane decision to attack Iraq in the first place. Before 2003 Al Quada was on the run, their influence largely confined to Pakistan and north Africa. Now they are all over the middle east and central Africa as well. If idiots like McCain and Graham were in charge we'd be on the brink of nuclear war by now. The morons in the Bush administration created this monster. Now they hide behind their paint brushes and medical devices when they should be be in jail where they belong. Like the man said, "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

    January 4, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  25. Paul

    It's no wonder McCain et al are harping about Iraq. Bad enough that Bush hoodwinked the US into going after Saddam but if the rebels take it, it will almost feel like another Vietnam....a waste of money and lives.

    January 4, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
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