NEW YORK -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the aggression of insurgents in Iraq “a dreadful, deteriorating situation” Thursday, saying that she “could not have predicted” the extent of their ability to swiftly gain control of large swaths of the country.
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot group, has been seizing cities throughout northern and eastern Iraq, and its forces are moving closer toward Baghdad.
“This is not just a Syrian problem anymore,” Clinton said while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I never thought it was just a Syrian problem. I thought it was a regional problem. I could not have predicted the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create a new state.”
American troops could not remain in Iraq, she argued, because no “status enforcement agreement” could be secured during President George W. Bush’s Administration
According to a New York Times report, the United States has rejected requests from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to use airstrikes against the insurgents. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he does not “rule out anything” that could be done to aid the Iraqi government.
During Clinton’s ninth visit to CFR, she discussed a host of foreign policy topics including relations with China, unrest in the Middle East, and the embargo with Cuba.
While the Thursday morning event focused heavily on international policy, domestic politics still found a way into the conversation when an attendee asked Clinton what can be learned from the loss of Eric Cantor, the second ranking Republican in the House, to a Tea Party challenger in Virginia earlier this week.
“I think it shows the continuing conflict within the Republican Party over its direction. And that will be a challenge,” Clinton said. “It may not affect, necessarily, the outcome of the elections in November, we will see, but it will certainly have long-term implications for 2016 and maybe beyond.”
She added: “I don’t know that we really can draw conclusions yet other than it will be an interesting leadership struggle within the Republican Party.”
Clinton continues to travel the country on her nationwide book tour and will attend two more events in New York City this afternoon before heading to Philadelphia and the Washington, DC area for “Hard Choices” book signings.