Obama to GOP Iraq Critics: ‘I’m Very Clear on the Lessons of Iraq’


obama_msnbcIn a lengthy interview with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, Barack Obama hit back at GOP critics of his Iraq strategy, particularly critics whose names sound like Schmeb Schmush.

In the past few weeks, Jeb’s Iraq talking point has evolved to blame Obama, and not his brother George W. Bush, for the current instability in Iraq and the rise of ISIS. Obama strongly disputed that contention, pointing out that, unlike some people, he was “very clear on the lessons of Iraq.”

“I think it was a mistake for us to go in in the first place, despite the incredible efforts that were made by our men and women in uniform,” he told Goldberg. “Despite that error, those sacrifices allowed the Iraqis to take back their country. That opportunity was squandered by Prime Minister Maliki and the unwillingness to reach out effectively to the Sunni and Kurdish populations.”

The question now, he thought, was how America would find regional partners to help govern the “ungovernable” areas of Iraq and Syria, without resorting to sending ground troops. “It is important to have a clear idea of the past because we don’t want to repeat mistakes,” he argued.” I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in.”

While he promised to be an effective ally for the Iraqi government and other potential partners, he blasted the people who thought that America should be more involved in eradicating ISIS:

But we can’t do it for them, and one of the central flaws I think of the decision back in 2003 was the sense that if we simply went in and deposed a dictator, or simply went in and cleared out the bad guys, that somehow peace and prosperity would automatically emerge, and that lesson we should have learned a long time ago. And so the really important question moving forward is: How do we find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya—that we can work with, and how do we create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future?

The rest of the interview was devoted to the nuclear deal with Iran and his efforts to convince the Gulf Cooperation Council to sign on, as well as his relationship with American Jewish voters.

[h/t TPM]
[Image via screenshot]

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