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. GaryO

    What a bunch of Baloney. These Right Wing Knot heads are criticizing Obama for Iraq!?

    Obama didn't send American troops into Iraq under false pretenses (declaring a WMD threat) and completely destabilize the Middle East for years to come.

    That responsibility rests with the Bush administration and it's supporters, including Senators McCain and Graham.

    January 4, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  2. Don't blame me I'm obama

    Big surprise! I'm sure libs will blame EVERYONE except who's responsible. Bush has been out of office for 6 years so it MUST be his fault... Absolute incompetence in the WH.

    January 5, 2014 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  3. Allen

    I was just wondering is there anything in the world that has happened in the past , present or may happen in the future that the GOP won't blame Obama for? Because they claim that Bush wasn't responsible for anything during his time in office. Yet Obama has been blamed for the Government's response to Katrina he was just in his first year in the Senate. While in February of 2008 less then a month into his first term Speaker Boehner claimed that the reason for the large Deficit Was because of Obama's wild spending.. I am not supporter of Obama but common!!!! The GOP has blamed him for TARP and even the phone give away program . Yet both bills where signed by W. I don't know what they are smoking but with all their hallucinations it must be PCP !! Now they are once again threatening to Default on the Government's debit. Even after their actions in the past resulted in a drop of the countries credit rating. I forgot that was his fault also. Since the GOP also blames The Democrats for all the increases of the Debit while a Republican was president. What is worst is that so many. Republican's believe everything the GOP says is from the Moth God.

    January 5, 2014 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    These two guys have got to be kidding or are more clairvoyant than anyone can be. 2 years later and this rucous is because the Iraqi's would not accept a primary condition of any US military presence anywhere in the world , i.e . subject to US law and justice for all military.
    Our withdrawal from Iraq is not causal of Syria or the spill over into Lebanon and Iraq therefrom or the rise of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt.
    What's happening is a rise of Muslim or Islamic sectarian religious differences between Sunni, Shiite, extreme Islamic views ala Taleban or Al Qaeda, and will not be solved/ prevented by a Christian crusade or 5000 US warriors still being in Iraq.

    January 5, 2014 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  5. IA

    What did anyone expect? The U. S. is out and Iraq will regress back to a terroist state. The 'doves" and Obama supporters can spin and support this administrations actions till hell freezes over......Please, don't even put the effort into a rebuttal.

    January 5, 2014 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  6. George

    Pls find something else to talk about. You can't run Iraq forever. Warmongers...

    January 5, 2014 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  7. Peg

    Talk about switching blame...The minute the republican's realize they are about to be in deep ## with the public for very obvious reasons – they try to find a way to blame it in the president because they know their base could care less about facts or truth

    January 5, 2014 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  8. Matt

    The Russians are reckless their Syrian policy is a car with no brakes, they believe the west is weak and will buckle under the threat of al- Qaida via fear and thus save Assad. Now if the west does not buckle the car has no brakes. So either way at the end there is a mess. Whether the Russian keeps Assad or not. The mess is secondary not primary. Everything is reliant on the weakness and fear of the west. But remember no brakes.

    January 5, 2014 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  9. Oliver A. Dyer

    Ok here we go again, whatever is going wrong in the world it's President Obama's fault. Makes no sense but these guys will ring that bell forever and a day. I wonder if any of the current Iraqi problems are the result of President Bush's policies?. After all under his plan we dismantled the Iragi army.

    January 5, 2014 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  10. diane

    I think the whole war was an idea that should never have happened. The middle east is an area that should be avoided.

    January 5, 2014 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  11. troppo1

    The GOP will blame BO for anything and everything, now news here

    January 5, 2014 05:12 am at 5:12 am |

    Look at the picture. Dumb and clueless. Nov comes quickly for the Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts.

    January 5, 2014 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Ah yes, the dynamic duo that leads the "war is good" party. 4500 of our soldiers killed in Iraq is never enough for these two. Instead, we need to send John and Lindsay to Iraq to get first hand information. I don't think the majority of Americans would miss them. Maybe they could be our "Tony Romos on the ground."

    January 5, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  14. Tampa Tim

    I blame McCain, Graham, and Lieberman for promoting war instead of peace.

    January 5, 2014 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    They don't care about the violence, they simply want to go get involved again..........because both are hawks.

    January 5, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  16. king

    mmm last thing i remembered was the Iraqis kicking the so called status agreement out the window and ordered Americans out of their country. what with these so called capitalistic repubs. on one hand they claimed that the government is overreaching into people lives, and the other hand they're screaming government should reject what the people want and overreach. lessen repubs, the Iraqis kicked us out of their country, now if you wanted America to take Iraq by force and say hell to what their government and their people say, well that's a different story, because they knew the risk and they accepted it as a free and soverent nation. so why are you blaming this president.

    January 5, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  17. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Ok GOP morons, the rest of the country and most GOP idiots wanted our troops home and they are, thanks president Obama !!!!!

    January 5, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  18. Name Uche Agonsi

    Opposition Party in politics is not just about presenting contrary view on any issue and obstructing all legislation but presenting a better reasonable opinion. The US GOPERS need at this stage, to learn from the Europeans, what opposition politics is all about.

    January 5, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  19. w l jones

    The those of the decendant of people who being in that area for more than one hundred thousand years and nobody nobody had found a way to stop them from fighting between the tribes.

    January 5, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  20. ChrisM

    Jeeezzzzzzzzz guys, give it up. You want more American men and women over there. The MAJORITY of Americans want our troops home

    January 5, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    I will give them advise, these GOP guys need to recite a mantra for 111 times daily, I.e, "Benghazi, Obamacare, Obama is bad" then god appears in their dream and fulfill the wish. While reciting this they need to stand on one leg only facing east. Please do it.

    January 5, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. PrettyFingFunny

    You've to be kidding me? I was in Iraq as a Marine in 05. We all knew then this was going to happen when we left. If these two Jacka**'es had their way we would have stayed there for the next 100 years and wasted more American lives. I say let them all kill each other, we need to stay out of it.

    January 5, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  23. Wendy

    Sunday morning's two biggest clowns.

    January 5, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. eddieb

    yea right the war mongers are at it again, let Iraq solve its own problems. we don,t not have the money and will sacrifice no more armed forces over there. send bush.

    January 5, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  25. louenglish

    All would be different with a few more jets, a few more tanks, a few more lives. It never ends. look at Afghanistan

    January 5, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
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