Video: Clinton: No one should doubt commitment to Iraq

  1. Closed captioning of: Clinton: No one should doubt commitment to Iraq

    >>> the president suffered a setback on his jobs bill, he argued that his dual foreign policy milestones in iraq and libya are, quote, powerful reminders of how we have renewed american leadership in the world. a few hours ago i sat down with the chief foreign policy adviser, the secretary of state hillary clinton , who is wrapping up a week-long overseas trip to countries such as libya, pakistan, afghanistan, and uzbekistan. secretary clinton, welcome back to "meet the press." i want to start with iraq and the president's decision about withdrawal. as you know, republicans have already piled on, suggesting that the prospect of sectarian violence once u.s. troops leave is real. among them mitt romney saying that it unnecessarily endangers the success that the united states has had in iraq by with drawing all the forces by the end of the year. how much of a concern is it to you that we face the prospect of civil war once u.s. troops come out?

    >> you know, david , i think that iraq is a very new democracy, of course, but it has made tremendous strides in taking care of its own security. and let's put this into some context here. president obama has said from the beginning that combat troops would leave by the end of this year. that should not surprise anyone. but, it's equally important to remember that this deadline was set by the bush administration . so, it's been a bipartisan commitment, but it was on president obama 's watch to show the leadership to be able to fulfill that commitment. so, we are now going to have a security relationship with iraq for training and support of their military, similar to what we have around the world, from jordan to colombia. we will have military trainers and support personnel on the ground at embassy baghdad. we will be training iraqis on using the military equipment that they are buying from the united states . and we think that this is the kind of mature relationship that is very common. so, i believe that we are looking to fulfill what it is that the iraqis requested, and that we're prepared to provide.

    >> secretary clinton, the question is whether you think this criticism is well-founded or not. do we not endanger recent success in iraq by not having any residual force? is there not a legitimate prospect of civil war , which many people fear?

    >> well, honestly, i think that they should have raised those issues when president bush agreed to the agreement to withdraw troops by the end of this year. i feel like this is a debate that is looking backwards instead of forwards. now, are the iraqis all going to get along with each other for the foreseeable future? well, let's find out. we know that there will be continuing stresses and threats, as we see in many of the countries that we work. we had a support and training mission in colombia over many years, when they were facing tremendous threats from insurgent groups. we know that the violence is not going to automatically end. but president obama has shown great leadership in navigating to this point, fulfilling his promise, meeting the obligations that were entered into before he ever came into office. we are providing a support and training mission. we will be there, on the ground, working with the iraqis . and i just want to add, david , that no one should miscalculate america 's resolve and commitment to helping support the iraqi democracy . we have paid too high a price to give the iraqis this chance. and i hope that iran and no one else miscalculates that.

    >> well, and i want to just underline that. there's a feeling that iran could try to push iraq around, particularly in the shia part of the southern part of iraq . are you suggesting that if iran were to try to take advantage at this moment, the u.s. would still have a military commitment, the message to iran being what?

    >> well, i think iran should look at the region. we may not be leaving military bases in iraq , but we have bases elsewhere. we have support and training assets elsewhere. we have a nato ally in turkey. you know, the united states is very present in the region. but let's also admit that iran has influence in iraq . always has, always will. but the iraqis themselves are a very proud people. they are proud of their nation. they're proud of their own future. prospects. so i don't think anyone should be mistaken about america 's commitment to the new democracy in iraq that we have sacrificed so much to help them achieve.

    >> final point on iraq . this was cast as the president talked about this as a victory for the united states , as we withdraw troops. looking back now, as this war is coming to an end, you stand by your vote authorizing military force in iraq as a senator?

    >> you know, david , i honestly don't think this is a time to be looking back. i think it's a time to be looking forward . i will leave it to history debate and argue over the merits and demerits of what the united states did over the last decade. but the fact is that iraq is now a sovereign nation with democratically elected leadership, with a government that reflects the interests of different groups of iraqis , and it is very much in america 's interest going forward to make sure that this new democracy flourishes, and we will do everything we can to help make that a fact.

    >> was the war worth it?

    >> we're going to have to wait a long time for the iraqis themselves to answer that question. freedom, democracy, the opportunities that people now have that were never available under the dictatorships of tyrants like saddam hussein , or gadhafi, is certainly a new world that everyone finds themselves in. but you know, i'm proud that the united states has stood on the side of those fundamental freedoms that we hold dear.

updated 10/23/2011 5:34:30 PM ET 2011-10-23T21:34:30

Iran should not misread the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as affecting the U.S. commitment to the fledgling democracy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.

President Barack Obama's announcement Friday that all American troops would return from Iraq by the end of the year will close a chapter on U.S.-Iraq relations that began in 2003 with the U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Washington has long worried that meddling by Iran, a Shiite Muslim theocracy, could inflame tensions between Iraq's Shiite-led government and its minority Sunnis, setting off a chain reaction of violence and disputes across the Mideast.

Clinton said in a series of news show interviews that the U.S. would continue its training mission with Iraq and that it would resemble operations in Colombia and elsewhere. While the U.S. will not have combat troops in Iraq, she said the American presence would remain strong because of its bases in the region.

"Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region, both in bases, in training, with NATO allies, like Turkey," she told CNN's "State of the Union."

Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about fears of civil war in Iraq after U.S. troops leave, Clinton said, "Well, let's find out. ... We know that the violence is not going to automatically end."

She added: "No one should miscalculate America's resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy. We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance. And I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that."

In an interview released Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran has "a very good relationship" with Iraq's government, and said the relationship will continue to grow.

"We have deepened our ties day by day," Ahmadinejad said in the interview, broadcast Saturday on CNN.

The timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals had been agreed to by President George W. Bush and Iraqi leaders. Obama had campaigned for the presidency with the promise to end America's war in Iraq.

For months the Obama administration negotiated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials to extend the stay of troops and to build permanent bases. Both sides saw advantages to keeping several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq as part of a training mission, but there was also strong opposition in the U.S. and Iraq for the American troops to stay.

A sticking point was the U.S. demand that American troops be granted legal immunity to shield them from Iraqi prosecution, a flashpoint for Iraqi anger over the Americans' special status in their homeland.

In Iraq, cheers and fears greeted Obama's announcement as the country pondered another period of uncertain transition. While many celebrated what they viewed as the end of a foreign occupation, there was also apprehension over what would happen without U.S. troops on hand to help control political and social divisions that still spark shootings and bombings.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the withdrawal decision "a serious mistake" that is viewed in the region as a victory for Iran. He also said the presence of U.S. bases elsewhere in the region will have little impact on Iraq.

"There was never really serious negotiations between the administration and the Iraqis," McCain told "This Week" on ABC. "I believe we could have negotiated an agreement. And I'm very, very concerned about increased Iranian influence in Iraq."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who also serves on the committee, criticized Obama for "not being able to close the deal" with Iraq, and he said the Iranians remain emboldened with "a shot in Iraq they would never had otherwise." He also expressed concern over Iran's nuclear program.

"The Iranians don't fear us at all," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday." He added: "At a time when we need troops in Iraq to secure the place against intervention by Iran and the bad actors in the region, we are going into 2012 with none. It was his job, the Obama administration's job, to end this well. They failed."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments