Obama Sends Wrong Message To The World
Obama Sends Wrong Message To The World
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is criticizing US President Barack Hussein Obama for leaning toward, then deciding against military action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons.
“By failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world,” Mr. Panetta says in his new book in which he reveals his differences with Mr. Obama over the decision to withdraw completely from Iraq in Y 2011.
Tuesday, Mr. Panetta said in a TV interview that Mr. Obama is to blame for the disintegration of Iraq, along with Arab nations. He said that Mr. Obama should have heeded warnings on leaving troops in Iraq and arming the Syrian rebels.
“With Maliki objecting, I think the general sense in the White House was that we cannot want this more than Maliki,” Mr. Panetta said, referring to former Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “After all, this was his country, his security force. Surely if he did not want it, why should we push him? My view was we should push him because frankly that was the only way to try to help guarantee that we would try to keep moving in the right direction.”
Mr. Panetta also slammed Mr. Obama’s comments 2 wks ago on 60 Minutes about intelligence underestimating the rise of ISIS, saying that you could “always use better intelligence,” but adding that “policy failures” combined to aid the rise of the militant group.
“Once Fallujah fell, that should have been a wake up call,” Panetta said. “If they could take Fallujah, there’s no reason they could not take Baghdad.”
In August 2012, Mr. Obama said the US would reconsider its opposition to military involvement in the Syrian civil war if President Bashar Assad deployed or used chemical or biological weapons
“That’s a Red Line for us,” the president said.
“There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.”
But even after Mr. Assad used chemical weapons, killing hundreds of Syrian civilians, Mr. Obama planned a Rose Garden address in which it was widely expected to announce airstrikes against Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama instead said he would consult with Congress.
“President Obama vacillated, 1st indicating that he was prepared to order some strikes, then retreating and agreeing to submit the matter to Congress,” according the book.
“The latter was, as he well knew, an almost certain way to scotch (halt) any action. By mid-2013, a majority of Congress could not agree on what day of the week it was, much less a resolution authorizing the use of American force in the Middle East.
“The result, I felt, was a blow to American credibility. When the president as commander in chief draws a red line, it is critical that he act if the line is crossed. … Assad’s action clearly defied President Obama’s warning.”
Earlier this year former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton published a memoir in which she outlined differences with Mr. Obama, including over Syria.
On the deadly Y 2012 siege of the US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, Mr. Panetta said the administration had no indication of an attack coinciding with the 9/11 anni. US Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans were killed in the violence.
Mr. Panetta, who also served as director of the CIA, said he questioned “from the beginning” the CIA’s initial assessment that the attack was the work of a mob of protesters rather than an organized assault. “It seemed to me that most spontaneous demonstrators don’t arrive for a protest carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers,” he said.
But Mr. Panetta defended the intelligence agency, saying such work is difficult and often contradictory. “It was not clear at the time that there were 2 separate incidents, separated by distance and by several hours,” he said.
On Iraq, Mr. Panetta chided Mr. Obama for not keeping a residual US force behind, which he said could have helped provide training and security to Iraqi security forces and blunt the IS group’s recent takeover of parts of northern and western Iraq.
“My fear, as I voiced to the president and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the US.”
Mr. Panetta also blames former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for deteriorating conditions in Iraq, saying he exacerbated sectarian divisions already getting worse in his country.
“The news from Iraq bothered me to no end. In my view, the ISIS offensive in 2014 greatly increased the risk that Iraq will become al-Qaeda’s next safe haven,” Mr. Panetta wrote.
“That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre 9/11. After all we have done to decimate al-Qaida’s senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East.”
A US State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that many former administration officials who have been critical of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy decisions were involved in and supported strategies when they were developed, including “the fact that we were not going to allow our troops to stay on the ground (in Iraq) without the protections they needed.”
“The political situation on the ground was that the Iraqis did not want to have a big troop presence on the ground,” she said. “There were political challenges to getting it through, but it was clear they did not want that. So that was what we were dealing with at the time.”
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